One thing that anyone who attends KCON can attest to is there are surprises lurking around every corner. The first of many for me this weekend was the discovery of group Odd Folks (Dr. Mumen, As If, and Slez). I’m never ashamed to admit when I’ve been out of the loop when it comes to new talent making a name for itself. This collective of rappers, though not out in full force, certainly grabbed my attention from first note to last.
Our MC reads off a list of their superlatives, including what the members of the collective seem to fashion themselves as: a genre-bending group of individuals intent on bringing what they believe to be a “new” genre of hip-hop called “Alternative Wave,” but more on that later.
Starting with rappers Dr. Mumen and As If, the music is intoxicating. The description of their sound certainly isn’t misplaced. As with all collectives, each artists has his or her own particular style, their own immediately recognizable aesthetic. Dr. Mumen errs on the wavy side of this so-called alternative wave. While As If slots easily into the jazz-inspired chillhop of his partner, there’s no denying Dr. Mumen is most comfortable in this type of space, sitting himself deep in the pocket of the deepest nu-jazz.
Another pervasive theme of the weekend was this idea of duality–two styles sharing the same space, two sides of the same coin. Today’s con stage was no exception. Though Dr. Mumen is plenty competent and has a steady and melodious flow, there’s no denying As If is the focus, or at least his energy overflows to the point of taking over the entire stage. Indeed, he runs himself back and forth, seeming to have a never-ending supply of robust and shining energy. He ran from one side of the stage to the next, up and back like he was trying to see if he actually could drain himself of every drop of energy. However, that’s all part of the show, really. While Mumen is satisfied adding his quips and simple charisma where it slots in, As If is determined to sweep the audience up in the same fervor that sees him physically incapable of standing still even for a moment.
As with this theme of duality, there’s a shared understanding between the artists that’s really pleasant to see. Though on different ends of the performance spectrum, Mumen and As If are truly sympatico. They have such an exuberance for their music, such an eagerness to showcase their work, they almost blur the lines between each song, more fade-ins than pauses between each track. They go so far as to say, “I just wrote this song two weeks ago” or some such outrageous proclamations of the newness of their music before every song to get the audience instantly and irrevocably invested in whatever they have to offer. From the steady chill of the opening number to Dr. Mumen’s “reflecTions” to the requisite “turn up” of track “Don’t Play,” the group takes such obvious pride in their work and their craft.
“S T A R” is instantly a standout, however. The collective’s latest track, it exemplifies the space-age steeze they’re trying to promote with their supposed “new style.” It certainly spans genres and bridges the gap between jazz, funk, and hip-hop that influences the smoother end of their sound.
The performance goes quickly from chill to the typical club bangers with the introduction of member Slez. Coming fresh off his stint on the latest season of Show Me the Money, he’s obviously still buzzed from the high of standing in front of the industry’s best, sporting some the energy that got him there. His appearance certainly changes the dynamic of the performance, but none of the group’s effervescence dissipates. He even takes some time to give us a few unrehearsed bars of freestyle toward the end, solidifying his role in the collective and giving me enough pause to consider just how talented he truly is.
Barring the fact there’s nothing instantly innovative about their sound, they do bring an interesting vibe to the stage. They’re obviously young (meaning they fall prey to the self-same braggadocio of most newer generation acts who think they’ve invented something that’s been around for over 20 years). But in their youth there are infinite and immense possibilities. They wear their influences openly, taking obvious cues from the Slum Village collective (sans Dilla’s genius) and Stones Throw (without the vision of Peanut Butter Wolf and mindblowing brilliance of MF Doom).
Whether as original or “new wave” as they claim to be or not, the truth is they are obviously creating music with a mind to at least expand the genre among those who think Show Me the Money is the go-to for all things hip-hop in Korea. Though this type of nu-jazz, hip-hop soul is nothing new in Korea (think anything with Jjang-you’s name attached to it, and more recently FRNK and Kim Ximya of XXX coming into their own under the tutelage and guidance of their BANA family) and certainly has been a mainstay in American hip-hop since the late ’80s (De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and, of course, Slum Village) and even British hip-hop (Hawk House), the boys of Odd Folks are at least in grand company. If nothing else, the potential for greatness, with maturity and dedication to the craft, is immense.
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About the Writer: Cy is a digital journalist and blog writer specializing in reviews of music and film across a broad range of genres. Wherever there’s electricity, food and a good Wi-fi connection is where she makes her home. Find her on Twitter (@mindlesscy) and Instagram (@mindless_cy).