Hello~ Today I’m here to introduce you to a Rap-mixtape. We’re talking about the first Solo-release from Yano, the Maknae of Stardoms’ huge boyband Topp Dogg. Among 12 other members and the 3 other rappers he probably doesn’t particularly stand out to some people. Now the cute 19 year-old presents us his own personal mixtape to point out his own style.
First things first: This mixtape can be downloaded for free.
For free. Just like that. Now it’s already difficult to find reasons to not give it a try, right?
If you wanna know where to download it, you just have to go there:
Anyway, let’s get it going:
01. YF20 – 8/10
02. 시체(Corpse) – 10/10
03. To Me – 7/10
04. BEAST (feat. Chancey the Glow) – 7/10
05. HAPPY (feat. Sangdo) – 9.5/10
06. DEAR – 5/10
07. SKIT – ?/10
08. 썅년 (Bitch) – 8/10
09. 누구게 (Guess Who?) – 7.5/10
Ya know about him? Most of you probably haven’t yet. This cute English catchphrase describes the origin of his artist name – Surely an improvement compared to his pre-debut name “Snoopy Swaggy”. …I’m not even going to comment this name any further. Now add his overly cute face and he probably looses all credibility as a rapper. Or does he? I would say: Surprisingly not. Out of all his bandcolleagues he has the most “badass” feeling to him. His voice is surprisingly deep and rough, his flow very fast and his lyrics are usually the most biting. So let’s see what kind of style he likes to pursue when void of the inevitable boundaries that is Topp Dogg.
YF20 – 8/10
This is a short introduction. Easy message: Young, Fresh, 20, Bitch. Because our Cutie is already 20 in Korean age. This pretty much sums up this mixtape pretty well. He introduces the main elements he focuses on: His young age, the criticism he gets, his pride as a rapper, the conflict between Idol/Rapper and therefore Money/Self-fullfillment. Oh, and there’s a high amount of swearwords in this. Just in case someone didn’t expect this from a rap-mixtape *slight sarcasm*
A nice line from this track would be:
Respect underground respect overground
In between are ambiguous fuckers, fuckin’ middle ground
Clear message: You can even do both(Be an Idol and a Rapper), but damn, you better do it right. No half-heartedness allowed. Because both categories are individually demanding yet totally different. And mashing both together only makes both groups look down on you.
It’s a nice track, and even though the immediate strong use of swear words might be a bit shocking at first, the “Young, Fresh, 20 – Bitch!”-part is pretty catchy ♪
2. 시체(Corpse) – 10/10
Let’s get right into… The most depressing song on this tape. For me it’s also one of the strongest. I don’t even know where to start with those lyrics. He further goes into all of the before mentioned conflicts. The focus lies on the conflicted perception from other people as well as yourself.
Even if it’s merciless, I, in order to become the person I’m right now
Have killed myself several times, it’s suffocating
I fear that I might become the perpetrator, that I will disappear completely
These lines portray the inevitable identity-crisis, that comes with being an idol, beautifully. The melody is rather calm, though Yano’s rap doesn’t constantly stay calm – It conveys the surpressed emotional rollercoaster that this song is perfectly in my opinion. While almost monotone at some phrases, he suddenly lashes out bitingly, repeating the accusations he suffers from.
Yeah I’m ugly motherfuckers, ugly visual
My proportion’s also fucked up, are you satisfied?
Now you done?
Some might find this a little overly dramatic. It’s still somewhat the true thoughts of a 19 year-old trying to cope with the new lifestyle. The feeling from this song is very honest and personal, which is probably the reason why this song works so well for me.
03. To Me – 7/10
This track is topic-wise an answer to the previous one. Like: The path is difficult but I can do it. And I will. Moreover it includes my favourite lines on this mixtape:
We keep running for success
We keep stopping for happiness
Though somewhat weaker than the first song, I still like listening to it. It’s not as outstanding for me, but still enjoyable.
04. BEAST (feat. Chancey the Glow) – 7/10
This song is a little more attention-catching for a few reasons. For instance, it marks the first featuring of the tape; we get to hear the rapper Chancey, who I’ve frankly haven’t heard of before, but you learn something new everyday, right? Moreover, it is probably the most aggressive song with biting lyrics. And finally, it has a completely English refrain, which is what will probably have our international fans’ ears perking up.
Yano knows quite a bit of English and although the refrains’ lyrics are nowhere near impressive(“Everytime we make a shit“? I get your point and it’s probably even acceptable in the rap scene, but it still sounds rather ugly to me…?), he is pretty good at blending English tidbits into his rhymes without breaking the flow or sounding unnatural. And there are plenty of those English parts.
I’m a huge fan of this line, which always strikes my attention:
A rising idol, a flower in the mud, that’s me, I’m fuckin important
For once, it’s his signature line we also heard in TOP DOG(the mud flower), secondly… Not only a ‘Very Important Person’, but a ‘Fuckin’ Important Person’, haha, I like this demanding and arrogant tone.
While rapper Chancey gives a nice contrast, I’m not a big fan of his lines.
Fuckin’ homo rappers get out – I’m just walkin’ on ma way
This sounds so typically american, “homo rappers”? Really?
I get what he’s pointing at – the girly idol-rappers with a lack of underground experience, etc., blah, blah. Then why don’t you say “girly”? That’d have been offensive enough, but calling them “Homos”… Nope, plain rude. Call me a wuss, but I’m not having this. I’m just really glad Yano is more careful with his choice of words.
Overall the song is very dramatic with the background of ringing bells giving it a ‘judgement’-feeling. Not knowing the lyrics it was one of the first songs to stand out for me while listening. Still, I harbour some small conflicts about this, thus the ‘low’ score.
05. HAPPY (feat. Sangdo, produced by Kidoh from TOPP DOGG) – 9.5/10
Now we get to the song. The song that I get into everyones’ face who is asking me about Yano or his mixtape. The song that is short, yet perfectly unique in everything I heard so far in the K-Pop/Rap world. While Topp Dogg is merrily fooling around to Pharrell’s “Happy”, Yano stays back, interpreting this in a fairly different way. Topic-wise it’s comparable to San E‘s “Wish you to be unhappier” or G-Dragon‘s “She’s Gone”. Let’s just say that a guy who stole away his girl finds a very ugly end… By the very hands of our protagonist.
Though similar to the other two, Yano’s ways are far more direct and graphic, which is kinda surprising considering G-Dragon’s bravery to experiment and San E’s free ways, being a rapper who is free of idol-bounds in any way. But upon reading things like this:
For a while you’ll be sad, once you know that you will die
Haha, I’m getting excited already, forever like a crazy dog
Or like this…
I pull out the knife that I’ve prepared, I count all of your arteries
*Chop, chop, chop* Minah-ya you’re mine
…One would probably instinctively take half a step away from the young, cute-looking boy, right?
Yano uses a disturbingly blunt way of expressing himself, which I’m definitely not used to. What drives the chill down my spine even more is his rapping style. Starting out in a calm way, yet lashing out aggressively for a second or falling into a happy sing-song voice which laughs out or accentuates sound effects. It effectively reflects the psychotic and uncontrolled guy he’s acting out.
Furthermore parts like those are, what captivates foreign listeners like me so well. The taunting sound of him ringing the bell to his girlfriends’ house, the playful victoriousness over her opening the door… Creepy.
In for support comes Sangdo, one of the probably most underrated Topp Dogg members. He seems to like helping out his fellow members, though. His smooth voice gives a very, very nice contrast to Yano’s ways. And yet again we are greeted with a fully English hook, which, also yet again, lacks a certain feeling for the language:
Runaway from the monster, he wanna get you
He killed your boyfriend, he has a present for you
Baby watch out he will kill you
Baby don’t trust him – he’s a monster
I wonder if Sangdo knows what he’s talking about… ;)
The refrain is not technically wrong, and though it sounds a little weird I think it can be overlooked due to the unconnected, thought-flow-like structure.
Nearing the end the song escalates greatly in Yano’s crazy laughter and terrified screams, which are underlined by Pharrell’s “Happy”… Hence the title.
Really, this song is so short, yet has so many different facettes, it’s bordering on being too much. But it still works in my opinion. The melody is very haunting, too, even without Pharrell’s ‘support’.
You can see, I’m greatly impressed by this. The only reason I didn’t give it a full score is, that I think the song is still kinda clumsy. I can’t pinpoint what exactly bugs me, but something about the arrangement is still kinda rough and clumsy and could use some more fine-tuning.
Still, the idea and his bravery to go through it in such a way (on his first mixtape), makes up for it. Such experimental songs are the ones that really stand out for me and give me an idea of his possible future development.
And in all honesty, could you ever forget lines like this?
It’s not anything unusual, but I reveal the present that I’ve prepared
It’s coming out fucked up, that bastard’s head
…Creeeepy. Have you been watching Vocaloid videos, Yano?
06. DEAR (produced by Gohn from TOPP DOGG) – 5/10
Now we get to a short interlude, which depicts Yano writing a letter to his before mentioned imaginative (let’s hope so, after hearing the last song ;) Ex-Girlfriend Minah before visiting her, all the while being supported by a soft piano arrangement. The song is completely calm and probably serves the purpose to ease the emotional scarring you receive from listening to HAPPY. Still, I think I would have found it nice to put this before HAPPY, so it wouldn’t have been for another Skit. That kinda disturbs the flow of the tape in my opinion.
07. SKIT – ?/10
Maybe I’m too stupid, but I can’t find a proper translation. Not that you actually needed one for this. It’s clearly about his girlfriend, chatting to her friend and then deciding to call her boytoy(Sorry, but they’re not even in a relationship according to the lyrics of the next song, so what else to call him?), to demand a favour for her and her friend. As I understand it, they want him to pay for their food. Doesn’t need a genius to figure out their spiteful way of talking, and therefore them making fun of him. So while we’re waiting for Yano to pick up the phone, we get led into the main single…
08. 썅년 (Bitch) – 8/10
…Which carries the eloquent name… Bitch. Very elegant, my Dear. We start out with him picking up his phone to hear her “request”. When he tries to intervene she gets snappy easily and he retreats immediately. Talking about being whipped. But that’s exactly what this song is about in the first place: Yano being totally whipped by his haughty not-exactly girlfriend who uses him to pay for her (very high) expenses.
Keeping the title in mind it should come as a surprise that this is the most light-hearted song on the whole mixtape. It depicts casuality and though Yano doesn’t stop himself from freely shouting out the evil B-word, he still lacks the aggressiveness he flaunts in his other songs. It’s pretty catchy, too, which is probably bad. At least I had to stop myself from humming along to it while idling through Seoul.
He very often repeats how beautiful she is, yet shows enough thinking to realise he’s being used and she’s probably just the typical bad type of girl that shows no interest whatsoever. On the other hand he blatantly admits he is terrible drawn in by her sexiness and maturity – is this the result of always being treated like a baby? At least he gets to a nice result:
I want to have Givenchy, too
Hey I do hip hop, you know, I can’t buy you high heels
“Get lost” you said? What? Shit, okay, beat me up
First calculate this food, it’s 145000 Won you shitty bitch
You can see him swearing a lot which just reminds me of the typical way guys try to deal with their struggles to seem unaffected :P
And we don’t get the bitter end of him staying like her little puppy but letting go of things. Or maybe not, if the other songs were considered part of a whole story…
On top of that we get this really cute low-budget video with Yano being the ball of cute he hates to be ;)
09. 누구게 (Guess Who?) – 8/10
Now we made it to the final song. This is an equally light-hearted closing to the mixtape. Basically it states: Yupp, that was me, I’m working hard and look forward to my wonderful future wife.
Really, next to pointing out his hard-working and diligent nature, he’s focusing on his future girl, saying things like:
Wait for me babe, my lover
I’ll make a living for you, so I’ll keep rapping
…Which is kinda connected to the song we heard before, with him being not able to provide his girl with the things she likes. A nice and probably no ill-meaning in any way, but I can feel an uneasiness, growing stronger as the lines go on.
Give up on your diet
Your stomach everyday looks like a pregnant woman’s though
But you have to be able to look good in hotpants
I’m not sure on how to interpret this. Thinking of her stomach being too fat, while her legs look fine doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe he wants his future girl to be curvy? I really think the main meaning is somewhat lost in translation(no offense to the translators of course – Some things are kinda impossible to carry into another language, I guess). If anyone has suggestions on what the Cutie wants to convey, feel free to let me know, though :)
Same goes for the last one:
These days I’m only interested in my future and my soon-to-be housewife, fuck off
…House-wife? Really, Yano? This sounds so ugly in every way, even though I can sense what he’s trying to tell us. But still, all this talk about wanting a housewife he will pay the living for sounds so awfully cliché, every feminist is gonna whack him over the head for that. But still he’s only young and probably still able to change, thus only a whack so far. Moreover I’m declined to think that he really means no harm in that, but wants to be able to offer his girlfriend things to make her happy. He wouldn’t want his girlfriend to stay at home and clean, I’m positive about that. Still, the Korean attitude regarding relationships is old-fashioned in the first place(there’s no denying this), which is where I guess the maybe controversial choice of words origins from.
All in one this song is really casual and nice to listen to :)
Final Score: 7.5
Purely doing the math I came to a 7.75 but instead of a round 8, I’m going down to 7.5 this time. The reason for that is the tracklisting. It feels just really messy and uncoordinated. There are a variety of songs talking about his girlfriend situation and if put together properly they would have made a continuous story. This way, we get a bit here, and a bit there, and everything seems to maybe be connected, but in the wrong order. This just puts me off a little.
Still, this mixtape is really good. There is a fair variety of songs, ranging from your typical gangster-rap songs(“YF20”) to the sensual song “Corpse”, not shying away from experiments(“HAPPY”), and ending with casual and light songs to lift the overall mood again. I can whole-heartedly recommend fans of rap to give the maknae of Topp Dogg a chance, who has officially proven that he has a very own personality with an individual mindset. And that he’s probably the most un-cute cute person you’ll ever encounter ;)
Though partly still clumsy, he has a good technique and shows a lot of promise.
After all, the main aspect of everything might be his eagerness and high ambition.
I curiously await his future works and hope he doesn’t loose his will to experiment and go all out with whatever he wants to do :)
All Translations have been done by Topp Dogg International. You should check them out to read the full lyrics~! ♥
Woah, this must be the longest music review I ever did… But I really wanted to spread some love and attention for this! I hope I managed to spark your curiosity~