When I think of Korean hip-hop, I think of a lot of artists—the scene is so unbelievably rich, constantly thriving and growing, and there’s something (or someone) for everyone. But there is also a handful of artists who are undeniably at the top, if only for their immense contribution to the genre, especially in Korea. I can count them on my fingers: Epik High, Tiger JK and Yoon Mirae, Dynamic Duo…
Verbal Jint, who recently put out a short, five-song EP titled No Excuses on October 27, a little out of the blue. If you thought it was impossible to create a dark, introspective, and wholesome masterpiece in only five songs, well, you’re wrong—then again, can you really expect anything less from Verbal Jint?
The interesting thing about this EP is the very obvious topic it addresses (or so I believe, anyway): the immense regret the rapper feels towards his drunk driving incident, which made the headlines back in June. Sure, it’s not constantly expressed explicitly in the lyrics; but with the high number of references to alcohol, the almost overwhelming feeling of regret spoken through the verses, and even the title of the EP itself, No Excuses, it is obvious Verbal Jint is very much trying to pour out his feelings regarding that DUI incident and, possibly, move on—all while expressing just how much it has affected him.
The EP starts off strong with a collaboration track titled “Break” which features Babylon. Kicking things off with acoustic guitars setting the rhythm, the beat picks up quickly as Babylon sings the chorus and Verbal Jint starts rapping—and that’s the highlight, truly. Sure, the composition is brilliant; the trap beat sometimes fades to silence, letting the guitars and vocals shine through, but again, this only serves to put the spotlight on Verbal Jint’s impeccable and rhythmic flow even more. The lyrics explore the pressure one might feel from a variety of things—work, personal finance, relationships, the future—and the desire to escape it all. Babylon’s repeated chorus captures the feeling of wanting to get away perfectly, especially the line, “I need a break from my life, from myself, from my city.”
Then comes my favorite off the short EP: the stunning “Sober,” featuring YEIN. Supported by a simplistic urban beat and subtle guitars, it quickly became my favorite late night listening track. YEIN has a soft, unique voice that fits the evening mood perfectly, her vocals almost crooning in her parts, while Verbal Jint’s delivery is just as discreet and soft-spoken. The lyrics don’t shy away from brutal honesty; the rapper explores regret and self-reflects on excessive alcohol consumption. Through the music, however, it’s an easy song to get lost to, an easy song to fall for, and it’s a song you’ll find yourself listening to again—if only to get lost yet again in the quiet peace of the track.
“Self-Suggestion” follows, raw with a repetitive melody that, again, leaves focus on the flow and delivery, with lyrics that speak again of self-reflection, as the title suggests, and a SUPERBEE feature. “Regrets,” though way too short (only two minutes!), stuns with its arrangement, marrying a trap beat, a heavy bass, and an occasional orchestral break, mostly composed of strings. The lyrics seem like a culmination of what we’ve heard so far: an array of things—the main one being an alcohol addiction, again—causing a whole lot of regrets. It is also the one song where Verbal Jint explicitly mentions his DUI incident. We’re also being offered simple yet powerful gems like, “Yesterday is gone, today is all that I got.”
The EP ends on “Enough,” and the title really is self-explanatory. “I think I had enough; you know I had enough, enough of that sh*t,” Verbal Jint keeps on repeating throughout the song—it’s not hard to guess he’s talking of alcohol. It’s very much the best way to end the album; though slightly bittersweet, it still ends things on a positive, optimistic note. Plus, the beat is actually really good, again pretty simple yet addictive enough to get you to listen to it again.
Honesty has always been something I’ve admired in Verbal Jint’s work—and No Excuses definitely strengthened that admiration for me. Concise yet powerful, the EP definitely is worth a listen, and a whole lot of thorough attention.