The hip-hop label Just Music recently released its first compilation album, consisting of members Nochang, Vasco, Swings, Giriboy, and C-Jamm, which is quite the shimmering lineup.

파급효과 (Ripple Effect)

Nochang is the bigwig on this album, having produced, arranged, mastered, and mixed it. I was first made known of Nochang through Vasco’s fantastic 2013 album Guerilla Muzik: Exodos, on which Nochang did a lot of arranging and producing. His work was intricate, bold, and raw. He’s got a knack for visceral hip-hop and I am continually impressed by the level of intricacy in his work.

It’s not unexpected, then, that Ripple Effect’s atmosphere is similarly raw. It’s stirring with distorted voices, gritty beats and hooks, and frantic electronics. Every track on the album offers a layered and lively production for your ears to ogle at. This definitely isn’t “auto-pilot” hip-hop with monotonous looping beats submitting beneath  the performers. Instead, the accompaniment is alive with the performers.

And those performers don’t hold back; they deliver a handful of biting, intense moments with each track. Each rapper raps with different flavors, providing the album with variety; Vasco raps with fire, Swings with sass, Nochang with charisma, Giriboy with stability, and C-Jamm with agility.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Ripple Effect is that it’s very Kanye West inspired… almost to a fault, in that it obstructs the artists’ pure voices. The album even directly quotes the lyrics “watch the throne,” “I need that power,” and “welcome to the jungle” from Kanye.

Where this album disappoints is in the tracks that have too much muscle and not enough substance. Some tracks veer close to just being a staple hardcore hip-hop track without emotional payoff. Because of this, whenever there is a swooping, expressive section, it really packs a punch. Examples are in Swings’ chilling verse at the end of “더” or the melodic sections at the tail-ends of “Jungle” or “Just.”

The album is best when it finds a balance between raw and emotionally interesting. Tracks such as “인수인계,” “난 앞으로만,” “Rain Showers Remix,” or “Hongkiyoung #2” present some cool moods that are tense, anxious, and pompous all at once. My favorites are “더” and “Jungle.” “더” is gutsy and its last minute is one of the best, most intense musical moments of the year. “Jungle” is undeniably badass and I love its use of rock elements.

Ripple Effect is unlike anything in Korean hip-hop right now; it sets itself apart with its boldness and intricacy. I think this is thanks to Nochang’s skills as a producer, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does in the future. Although the album lacks in emotional sincerity, for what it is — a raw hip-hop album showcasing some top-notch talents — it’s commendable.

Just Music Entertainment on Twitter.

A composer of music myself who has been inspired by Korean indie music for many years, specifically rock, electronic, and experimental music.