8 Underrated Korean R&B Releases of 2017 (Part 2)
Bloo’s lovelorn revelation, Sophiya’s lush vocals and Rad Musuem’s cinematic debut all deserve more audiences
Bloo’s Downtown Baby
Bloo gets dark and deep on his debut EP Downtown Baby. While we already got a glimpse of the rapper’s angst on his gritty single “Hennessy” in June, Downtown Baby changed many people’s perspective of Bloo completely, revealing his lovelorn side. The entire EP abandons Bloo’s usual hard-hitting rap and trap combo to embrace a litany of acoustic ballads, self-deprecating lyrics and drawling vocals and is possibly the big game-changer for him as an artist.
Key tracks: “Downtown Baby,” “I Am,” “Sometimes”
Sophiya’s “For The Record”
While Sophiya is an acclaimed songwriter for several K-pop stars, she’s also a talented R&B singer in her own right. Her lush and sensual 2017 single “For The Record” is a slow ballad at its core, doing wonders to show off Sophiya’s smooth, refined vocals. The U.K.-born singer-songwriter has also recorded an English version of the track for her international fans.
Jane Jang, Giant Pink and PERC%NT’s “Dumb Dumb”
Singer Jane Jang, rapper Giant Pink and producer-singer Perc%nt give K-pop girl group Red Velvet’s 2016 hit a soulful, R&B makeover as part of S.M. Entertainment and Mystic Entertainment’s competitive Snowball Project. Jazzy brass, a touch of rock and hip-hop take the track down a more seductive path and away from the perky pop original, but there is familiarity with the addition of Red Velvet’s catchy ‘dumb dumb dumb dumb’ pre-chorus.
pH-1’s The Island Kid
pH-1 (pronounced P. H. One) keeps it fun and lyrically light on his debut EP. His relaxed flow is complemented by plenty of tropical beats and a feel-good vibe which stays in tune with the record’s title. Released via R&B biggie Jay Park’s groundbreaking Highr Music, The Island Kid also sees labelmate and R&B vocalist G.Soul (featured on part one of this list) make an appearance on “’15.”
Key tracks: “Donut” ft. Jay Park, “Christ,” “Escobar” ft. Owen Ovadoz
All I Know Music’s “Cypher #2” ft Dukbae, Sohlhee, K Jun, DJ Drev, Giant Pink and Bray
Featuring several prominent underground rappers and producers, music label All I Know Music’s “Cypher #2” is the ultimate game of tag; verses shift from one rapper to another, giving each of the five a generous chunk of a track that’s complemented by bluesy and jazzy old-school beats spun by DJ Drev.
From the subtle “Twisted Nerve”-referencing “in the car” to the sparkling fresh “Gold” and intricately melancholic “Moon, 12:04AM,” boy. is a superbly detailed and powerful first album from Offonoff. The producer/singer duo dive deep into chill-hop, blues, soul and ambient, recruiting the likes of hip-hop legend Tablo, singer-songwriter Miso and R&B superstar Dean for a tightly produced record.
Key tracks: “Dance,” “Gold” ft. Dean, “Cigarette” ft. Tablo and Miso
Rad Museum’s Scene
Rad Museum makes a stunning first impression with his first EP. The singer-songwriter’s style is cinematic and versatile, combining breathy vocals, soul and blues with surprising touches of garage rock (“Mad Kid”) and strains of bossa nova (“Tiny Little Boy.”) There’s something distinctly early-2000s about Scene and the nostalgia makes it an essential listen while on a long drive on a Sunday afternoon.
Key tracks: “Dancing In The Rain,” “Birthday,” “Tiny Little Boy” ft. Dean
Giriboy is nothing short of a musical genius and it’s a fact he reinforces with his fourth studio album Graduation. While the rapper’s sound is largely a mix of trip-hop and chill trap, he manages to rope in elements of new jack swing and soul. Lyrically, Giriboy is versatile and eloquent, getting vicious on the diss track “wewantourmoneyback” before effortlessly swinging to the darker, emotional “The Graduate.”