Read our exclusive album review for DPR LIVE‘s debut album [Coming To You Live] written by our guest writer Cy.‘Coming To You Live’ on iTunes
Back in March 2017, rapper DPR LIVE in collaboration with Dream Perfect Regime (DPR) released his debut EP titled [Coming To You Live]. For those unfamiliar with DPR, it’s not so much a record label—described in their own words as “an independent, multi-genre music and video group.” More it’s a studio conceived as a means to experiment with audio and visual imagery. The studio is set to reimagine what it means to create music videos and release music in South Korea, expanding the expectations of the respective artforms and forcing a completely new perspective on the craft. Using DPR LIVE as their bullhorn was a stroke of sheer genius.
In case you missed it: HiphopKR Exclusive Interview with DPR LIVE
Track 1: Cheese & Wine
This opening track gives you about ten seconds to prepare, asking “You ready?” before a series of “Cools,” as if DPR LIVE has to psyche himself up. Then he gives a low, “Alright, cool,” and the mind just goes blank! What starts as a simple skip-beat becomes something from another universe as the song reaches its zenith. The beat’s so complex, so all-encompassing, it runs the risk of overshadowing the actual vocal. However, the chaos and fire in DPR LIVE’s delivery fits the scattered and broken beat as if the music itself is pouring out of him as he spits a verse. It’s more than just a beat here. We have elements of very old-school soul, syncopation that can only come from the fists and feet of a live drummer. Overlaid on top of a very wavy synthesized melody, the beat becomes heavy in the chest, a deep thump indicative of the bass and the tom-tom. The thick complexity of the composition actually houses a very simple message—a man’s desire to “drown in” a lover, the romance of an evening of “cheese and wine,” her beauty elegant in candlelight, brings out the poet in DPR LIVE: “Let me drown in you.” All elements combine to create an absolute smash of a song. Rookies, take note. This is the way you start an album.
Track 2: Laputa (ft. Crush)
A fascinating aspect of the album is just how much is packed into the production and lyricism. It makes sense that DPR LIVE would want to get as much of himself and his vision on his debut EP as possible. Boy, does he go for it!
With the second track we delve a bit deeper into not only his lyrical prowess, but his understanding of story and the connecting strands of a narrative. The production is scaled back to focus on DPR LIVE’s storytelling. In “Cheese & Wine” he proclaims a desire to drown in the divinity of his lover. “Laputa” is really quite fascinating in its multiple meanings. While the word itself could be seen as more of an insult than anything (separating the word into two parts gives us a derogatory term in Spanish), it’s more likely DPR LIVE was likening her body to something otherworldly, as in the Island in the Sky of Gulliver’s Travels, or possibly more relevantly Hayao Miyazaki‘s Castle in the Sky, a city kept aloft by magic.
Though I’m not entirely sure his intention was to delve deeper into either the story or the film’s meanings, obviously DPR LIVE wanted to make the point that there was something ethereal about her body, something not quite of this world… visible but not within his grasp. Even taking into consideration the less than flattering first interpretation (which considering lyrics like, “You don’t understand, girl, you mean with it,” and “I know you can’t wait ’til I ease in it,” it’s not far-fetched), the idea of something unattainable, paying for a fantasy, for company still lingers in the way the notes are delivered. With the addition of the percussive smoothness of Crush’s vocal, and his added proclamation that she “make[s] me feel like I’m in your arms” and “make[s] me feel secure,” there’s certainly a feeling of the divine providing both wonder and comfort.
Track 3: Right Here Right Now (ft. Loco, Jay Park)
Again, DPR LIVE expresses a keen desire to wrap himself in his lover. The chorus says it all: “Girl, I so wanna fly with you, just wanna die with you, maybe go drown with you.” Whomever his love interest is, he doesn’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have her in it. There are multiple references to his wanting to drown with his lover, the idea of flying, as in away from the world, even going so far as to say, “…just wanna die with you.” The track’s very fatalistic, whether he intended it to be or not. One could say DPR LIVE’s bordering on obsession with his lover. Even the mumbled “Alright, cool” that finds its way into every song isn’t as strong a link connecting each track on the album as his dedication to his lover. Loco adds another dimension of aggressiveness to the song, a rough texture mean to probably ease the sentimentality. However, Jay Park’s feature counteracts this gruffness, adding a bit of cloying sweet to complex big-band beat.
Track 4: Know Me (ft. Dean)
More than any other track on the album “Know Me” makes it clear DPR LIVE favors Southern hip-hop, adding a curl to his vowels most commonly heard in Memphis rappers. Beyond that biscuits and gravy growl, there’s the intriguing feature. Not because it’s Dean, per se. He’s done enough features in the past two years for his voice to almost become commonplace in a lot of lesser-known artists’ tracks. However, of his guest appearances, his work with DPR LIVE is arguably his best. It’s most certainly his most aggressive, even when reaching for the falsetto and twisting his melismatic follow-through around certain notes, there’s a darkness there that isn’t present in any of his other cameos—and few of his own tracks. The marriage between the crunch and snarl of DPR LIVE’s delivery, his unabashed egoism, and Dean’s drop of earnest soul creates a track that’s as layered and nuanced as the music that houses it.
Even more intriguing is the connection between this song and the opening number. Even wrought with bravado, the imagery of drowning in a lover, “loving that body right.” It seems DPR LIVE’s penchant for the aggressive is tempered by a sensitivity to touch, an awareness of the almost liquid sensuality inherent in the way lovers relate. Wavy, audacious, curving at the edges, even in an album that stands out among most releases in the past five months, this is a standout track. Perhaps not as explosive as “Cheese & Wine,” but certainly a complex creation of raw energy and pure R&B.
Track 5: Please (ft. Kim Hyoeun, G2, Dumbfoundead)
Of course, as is commonplace with most rappers, DPR LIVE gets back to the business of asserting his manhood. It’s overt and not the least bit subtle, but somewhere on the album there was bound to be a cypher of sorts—artists coming together to throw down as much fire as they can, trying to best each other in a battle of bars and delivery. Avoiding any opinion on who may have come out on top, it’s clear there was nothing pretty or delicate about the message. Though certainly not a filler track, it separated itself from the songs that came before. Each feature laid down a verse that would have plenty South Korean MCs quaking. (Not to appear overly biased, but Dummy snatched, scalped, and destroyed his verse like his life depended in it!)
Track 6: Interlude
On the heels of the almost overdramatic show of testicular grandstanding, to get something as soft as a piano introduction to the final song on the album is a bit jarring. One could say its placement is a bit odd, considering the tracks preceding were almost intimidating, if not overwhelming to the ear. However, even with the shift in musical focus, the thread is still there: just a slip of piano instrumentation to mimic the sudden feeling of drowning or even flying away.
Track 7: To Myself
The Interlude does do a grand job of introducing the most personal track on the album. “To Myself” is very much DPR LIVE’s turn at being introspective, stripping away all the bolstering of the genre, even toning down his obsessive love affair with a divine phantom. [Coming To You Live] is the culmination of all parts of who he is as an artist. The song starts heavy, as most every song on the album, his ego pushing through, making it clear he’s less than impressed with any rapper out there. But after the wildness of the song’s introduction, DPR LIVE seems to move in closer to the microphone, as if screaming in the listener’s ear, demanding attention. The image makes sense: grabbing himself by the collar, all but yelling that he’s “gonna be a legend, you just watch and see.” It’s as if he’s convincing himself that, yes, he does belong here and he’s going to make his mark on this hip-hop thing if it kills him—even if he has to drown in it.
Thus we come full circle. Perhaps the amorphous entity DPR LIVE’s proclaiming all his love to isn’t a female. Rather, as in the classic Common track “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” perhaps he’s dedicated his life and his mortality to hip-hop.
Conclusion[Coming To You Live] has a depth and complexity that may be missed in the grandness of the production. On the surface we get an aggressive MC whose fondness for Southern hip-hop, though disparate in tone, pairs perfectly to the psychedelic nuance of the music. Much of the album seems to have obvious influence from the likes of Flying Lotus and Lance Skiiiwalker (particularly track “Advantage“) in production and delivery. Each artist who had a credit on this album (most prominently producer Cream) had an understanding of theme and vision and brought new depth to the project. As a result, this may be the cleanest collection of features on a hip-hop album from Korea this year.
Of the more mainstream hip-hop releases, this is surprisingly the most aggressive. Considering the almost arthouse style of production, the fact DPR LIVE managed to throw so much of his brazen delivery in the album is a shock to the system. But it grabs a listener and forces color and skewed angles to infiltrate and leave them seeing stars. DPR LIVE brings his own flavor to the studio, and coupled with the intergalactic production, his debut is truly something to behold.‘Coming To You Live’ on iTunes
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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).