After two decades, Epik High is still here and still shaping the future of Korean music.

Before there was BTS or BigBang, there was Epik High. Ask anyone who’s been listening to K-pop for more than a few years, and chances are they’ll know Epik High because the pioneering Korean hip-hop trio had a deep and profound influence on popular music. Korean. Featuring K-pop icons such as BTS, Seventeen and BI citing them as inspiration, Epik High is the musicians of the musicians. And on Monday, February 14, they released Epik High is here (Part 2), the second half of their final two-part album, their tenth full-length album in a two-decade career.

“There were a lot of things we wanted to say, and we felt like we couldn’t do it with just one album,” the Epik High frontman said. Chart recount Vanity Fair. “Also, we were in a situation where the whole world was in quarantine for the first part of this album, so we knew it would be a long-term difficult time for everyone.

Released in January 2021, Epik High is here 上 (Part 1) met with great success, landing in the top 10 on iTunes US and on Spotify’s Top 10 Albums charts in the US and worldwide. Just over a year later, the highly anticipated sequel to Epik High is their most personal and powerful work yet – a thoughtful retrospective of their 20-year journey told in 12 far-reaching pieces. Epik High is here (Part 2) is a rich, eclectic mix of flowing rhymes and haunting melodies drawn from hip-hop, pop, indie rock and other diverse genres, and it may just provide the emotional outlet we all need as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic.

“Who in 2022 doesn’t feel confused, angry or lost? Anybody…. We wanted this album to be something that grew with people through this difficult time,” says Tablo.

Composed of Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz, Epik High was formed in 2001 before hip-hop was widely popular in South Korea. The trio was not easily recognized as their lyrics were deemed too complex and sounded too different from the typical K-pop songs that were dominating the airwaves at the time. But in 2005, they met with mainstream success with their third album, Swan songs, (originally intended to be their last), which featured the single “Fly”. Shortly after releasing “Fly,” they won first place on a popular Korean music show.

“It was rare to see a Korean hip-hop group on these shows, but it was almost impossible to get number one,” says Tablo. “We were facing [K-pop group] TVXQ… at the height of its popularity, and everyone was praising us for trying, but we actually won…. It was a big moment because it was also when Korean hip-hop was recognized on national television. I think that was the turning point. »

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Today, the alternative hip-hop trio are widely credited with being one of the first acts to infuse hip-hop and rap into mainstream South Korean music. Since its inception, Epik High has worked with artists across all genres, inspiring subsequent crossovers and collaborations in the Korean music industry and introducing a variety of sounds into Korean K-pop and hip-hop. Although their penchant for combining rap and hip-hop with elements of pop, rock, and even classical was initially seen as too specialized and experimental, it is in part thanks to their pioneering efforts that we have heard these disparate genres often woven into K-pop songs. over the years.

“What’s amazing is that every artist we’ve supposedly influenced takes it to another level,” Tablo says. “They will influence a bunch of other people who will go even further. I wish it was that domino effect.

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