Deepflow is a convicted hip-hop artist who knows how to hook his listeners. His recent album, Yanghwa doesn’t avoid hip-hop tropes: it has trap beats, bombastic string and brass arrangements, and predictable bass lines. But they are cooked by Deepflow at a high enough level of intensity and mastery to make the album sizzle.
In this album, Deepflow seems to know exactly how to own our attention. He doesn’t sit on one sound for too long; right before an idea faces the risk of going stale, he swerves into a texture or adds another layer. Listening to this album with good headphones creates the sensation of splashes of color thrown into your ears in rapid succession.
Deepflow plays the game just as well with his rapping. His bars are short and breathless and spill into each other with exciting urgency. He stays on one pitch for most of the song, but does enough with projection and inflection to be conversational and emotive. As each track progresses, he varies his pitch and speed, providing a lovely narrative arch. In general, Deepflow has a strong sense of pacing, both as a rapper and arranger.
The guest list on Yanghwa is not a small feat. It’s packed with prolific names such as Sean2Slow, Vasco, Huckleberry P., Don Mills, Neoksal, and more. Each of these featured artists enrich the sound world and help keep the music on fire for the full hour. And whenever an R&B artist is featured, we are guaranteed a juicy vocal hook that always pops up at just the right moment. My favorite collaboration on the album is probably “작두” with Huckleberry P. and Neoksal; a nasty track featuring rappers who know how to sneer.
Yanghwa isn’t the most remarkable album of the year. It isn’t particularly original nor does it offer an epic narrative experience. But what Deepflow does, he does it right. He’s a thorough musician and does a great job at making Yanghwa an airtight, convincing hour of listening.