There’s nothing pretty or soft about Foreigner. Dumbfoundead is savage in a way that will have those with weak constitutions clutching their pearls. No one would ever accuse the artist of being anything but raw and honest. But Foreigner finds him at his most vicious and impassioned. There’s a distinct bite and snarl across these five tracks, something that’s a sharper at the edges than much that’s come out South Korea this year. He claws his way into the listener’s psyche. You must deal with him. We have no room here for the narrow- and frail-minded. There’s obviously something to going back to one’s ancestral homeland to create.
1. [형] Hyung (feat. Dok2, Simon Dominic, & Tiger JK)
From the moment the first few notes trickle in, Foreigner goes for the gut. Lead single “Hyung” is meant to grab your attention from every possible angle. From the cold production to the legends he shares the stage with, “Hyung” is everything you’d want from an opening number: aggressive, loud, and arrogant. What I love about Dumbfoundead’s collabs is that he owns them completely whether on his albums or otherwise. You never get the sense that he’s faded into the background. Even with the likes of Dok2, Simon Dominic, and the most legendary “hyung” in the game, Tiger JK, this is very clearly a Dumfoundead track. He’s generous, sharing the spotlight rather than focusing its beam on himself alone. But he makes sure listeners know that the features on this song, on the entire album, are guests in his country, even as he curls a tangentially familiar language around his tongue.
2. History of Violence (feat. Chancellor)
History of Violence is both poignant and fearless, a scathing critique of the rampant and deep-rooted hatred for people of color in this country. Obviously Dumbfoundead’s experience as a Korean-American man growing up in the era and vicinity of the LA riots are different than mine as a black woman. However, the message speaks to me on an almost spiritual level, that is our spirits are intertwined as sociopolitical minorities. Lyrically the story is powerful, his words painting a picture as only Dumbfoundead can. References to the luxury of turning a blind eye to the plight of those suffering the injustices of their forced habitat, the never-ending violence inflicted upon us for even the smallest infractions, the shame of having to hide pain, depression, and an overwhelming sense of loss from your family because “my culture don’t believe in shrinks.”
To be born and raised in a country that will always deem you a foreigner because of your genetic makeup speaks to the contradictory nature of being born in the States. On the one hand none of us belong here if we reach back far enough. But in one way or another we were forced here, oftentimes violently, into a reality we had no hand in creating but are involuntarily bound to accept. (“God bless America” indeed.) It’s only natural to want to dig around in our ancestral pasts to connect to something that while foreign to us, is oddly familiar in shape and hue.
3. Upgrade (2.0) (feat. Mom)
While I will say it’s a bit… odd to include his mother on the track, “Upgrade (2.0)” is undoubtedly sexy, if not a bit gratuitous. But part of me is thankful for the overindulgence. The music sounds like a night of hot panting —either from skin-close dancing or horizontal gymnastics. The song’s full of all the bravado one would expect from a rapper regaling his audience with his many adventures and escapades. It epitmoizes the thrill of the hunt, the sweet taste of catching your target. It’s not nice, pretty, or full of flowery words and poetry. This isn’t a song about making love. To put it frank, this song is the build-up to a nice slow f*ck, the music drips with the type of lip-lick and thigh pinch that leads to sweat-soaked sheets and neighbors pounding on the door. Perhaps in adding his mother’s voice he makes the connection between his being the upgrade his love interest needs to his mother being the benchmark of the type of woman he seeks out. It certainly implies that of all the females he knows, she’s the baddest.
4. [물] Water (feat. G.Soul)
Since we are on the subject of sex, Dumbfoundead’s offerings are rough and dirty like a drunken one-night stand. But even in the liquor-tinged haze, he’s lyrically dextrous, wrapping his tongue around words like complex foreplay, obscene and raw. “Water” has a buzz and deep throb, music that slithers deep and punctuates each thrust with a thick moan. Adding the fragrance of G.Soul’s effortlessly sexy voice, a sound like he’s humming into a kiss that’s all tongue and cheek, “Water” invokes the same slick, wet imagery of a rough tumble between the sheets.
5. Send Me to War (feat. Jessi & Year of the Ox)
I don’t believe there could’ve been a more pertinent collaboration this year between South Korean hip-hop artists than Dumbfoundead and Year of the Ox (YOX). This is rap, pure and simple: sharp, quick, intelligent. More than anything, adding YOX to the mix builds another layer to Dumbfoundead already multitiered ability to tell a story. “Send Me to War” is such an immaculate track, a sound that’s whole, loud, and powerful. It’s really a master class of how to construct a song: essentially making each moment count, each lyric another piece of the narrative. Jessi sounds better than I’ve heard her in a while. Putting her vocals on full display, adding an ache and croon to this song about surviving loss, pain, betrayal, and abandonment. Dumbfoundead seems to be another artist that brings the absolute best out of everyone he works with.
While at times still clinging to the bravado of his persona, Dumbfoundead is both introspective and bold. There’s a snarl in each and every word, yet there’s also a resounding need to seek and find one’s place in the universe. In the confines of a 17-minute album, he’s peeled back his Dumbfoundead character and reintroduced us to Jonathan Park.
Laying the moniker “foreigner” on this album was no mistake. Navigating a country that is technically not his homeland, dipping into a culture that he wants to feel close to but had to weave his way through, this album acts as his guide between two dueling existences. The title is apt. As we experience each song, we recognize just how different Dumbfoundead, and by extension we, feel in each environment: whether dropping into a country that holds our roots but we’ve never been a part of, navigating the helplessness of being pronounced an “other” in our own homes, or even experiencing the overwhelming sensual curl of erotic need in the pit of our stomachs, the message is undeniably universal.
With his first Korean album (meaning his first recorded in Korea with Korean features), Dumbfoundead does some serious damage. He’s torn through SK’s hip-hop scene and pretty much ethered every album that’s been released thus far. Dumbfoundead continues to get better, more ferocious with each release. To constantly live with and express this level of passion is astounding. From first note to last, Foreigner has all but ended everyone’s career.
Foreigner EP on iTunes
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).