I first heard of Don Mills from the Vismajor collective record that was nominated for the KMA Best Rap Record award. I heard of the others before, but Don Mills was one of the new ones for me. When he collaborated on Beenzino’s “미쳤어,” I was hooked, and was happy to see that he released Young Don not long after. The EP has been on repeat ever since.

Young Don

From the outset, Young Don is loud and commanding. Physically speaking, Don Mills is a big guy, at 6 feet tall, and imposing like a wrestler, so it makes sense that the opening track, “Don Mills,” is just as imposing with the aid of horns and drums. The song could have been a short intro, but as it’s a full song, “Don Mills” shows what to expect from the EP: gruff, if flat, delivery, Don Mills as his own hypeman, and lyrics that are all about him. All three aspects form the foundation for “강백호,” “유일무이,” and “88,” the latter which became a big hit for him.

The track should be his title track if it isn’t yet. Boisterous, narcissistic and beats so crazy you want to beat someone for being in your way, “88” is the Don Mills track if you needed one. The downside? Too short, something corrected in the remix, which is its own mess. For someone calling himself a “Young Don,” Don Mills is acting the part, brash and in your face.

The quieter moments on Young Don are where Don Mills shows his chops better. Anyone can get on a mic and deliver with anger and bravado, but delivering thoughtfulness is harder. To aid in the process, samples are used in the EP to good effect. Most hail from 70s soul and rock, from The O’Jays (on the title track), Leon Ware (“귀가”) and Steely Dan (“How U Feel”). Production-wise, the songs are great, with just enough punch to them to match Don Mills’ gruff, but with a cool groove to round him out.

“How U Feel” is the better of the three, with its feel-good take on “I’m gonna reach the top” trope without feeling like a syrupy pop-rap number. Don Mills can feel forced into rapping about more than himself (see “어깨깡패”), but on the whole, reflective Don Mills is solid when paired with good production.

Don Mills’ Young Don is part of a bigger trend within VMC, with each member releasing material throughout 2014. This EP was a long time, with the earliest coming out fall of last year. A strong collection of songs, Young Don is the release to check out by Don Mills.

Don Mills on Twitter.
Don Mills on iTunes.

Vismajor on Facebook.

Contributed to McRoth’s Residence with a focus on Korean indie and hip-hop music.