박혜진 Park Hye Jin - Before I Die

  • A rising star's coming-of-age saga as told through 21st-century hip-house.
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  • 박혜진 Park Hye Jin's career trajectory is the type of thing electronic music fairytales are made of. Following a debut EP of the perennially cool hip-house Galcher Lustwerk and Yaeji make, the South Korean-born, Los Angeles-based producer, singer, rapper, DJ, and YouTube star (almost always rocking impossibly fresh white socks), Hye Jin signed to Ninja Tune. Then she turned out an EP that showed an even broader range—touching on techno, juke and SoundCloud rap—and continued to build a following through high-profile collaborations with producers like Clams Casino, Nosaj Thing and Lustwerk himself. It's not hard to see the appeal of her music: dusty loops strung over deep and immersive percussion all peppered with Hye Jin's Korean and English rapping and singing. Now on her debut LP, Before I Die, Hye Jin refines her sound, pulling from trap and boom-bap, not to mention dubstep and techno, to turn out a coming of age hip-house album. Before I Die is the clearest artistic vision we've heard from Hye Jin. If there was a critique of last year's how can i EP, it was that it was a bit disjointed. Each song was good by itself, but the way Hye Jin moved from juke to storming warehouse techno to blissed out mumble rap in just six songs felt hodgepodge. Given a full LP on Before I Die, Hye Jin has more room to let her ideas breathe. We start with "Let's Sing, Let's Dance," which is the type of lighthearted and woozy house track that would have slotted perfectly into Jayda G's DJ-Kicks mix, move into a long suite of hip-hop tracks, take a turn back to the club with some fairly pumping techno and then end with some of the album's most memorable hip-hop. This progression feels natural, like giving the aux cord to your most trusted and musically fluent friends during a cross-town commute. Trap is one of the dominant sounds on the record and Hye Jin knows how to offset the bite of her snares with light melodies. The twee piano on "I Need You," for example, sounds like Lex Luger soundtracking a weekend fox hunting trip. This same juxtaposition works well on "Watchu Doing Later" where the fierce bass hits ballerina with a sepia-tainted piano loop you might find on an early Lobster Theremin lo-fi release. But in addition to trap, we also have tracks like "Good Morning Good Night," which features a finger-plucked melody that would be catnip to the dude at college orientation who tells you he's only into "underground rap." "i just wanna be happy" feels very much of a kind with the cloud-rap adjacent stylings we heard on her stellar collab with Clams Casino. There's plenty to like on this record for the dance heads, too, as Hye Jin pulls fluently and fluidly from across the dance music spectrum. The bassline on "Can I Get Your Number" has a dubstep menace, "Never Die" features some techno propulsion in the percussion, and "Hey hey hey" is basically a DJ tool with its tension inducing build-up. A word that I kept coming back to while listening to Before I Die was Künstlerroman - a German word for an artists' coming of age novel. In an interview with Vogue, Hye Jin described her music as "a young child venturing to faraway places alone." This admixture of both a child's wide-eyed wonder and loneliness is textbook Künstlerroman and permeates the album as we listen to Hye Jin explore how her artistic success has come at the expense of leaving behind her home and family. On "Before I Die" she laments, "I miss my mom. I miss my dad. I miss my sister. I miss my brother." But she maintains a sense of wonder: "Before I Die" also has the record's most lighthearted production with a roaming synthline that sounds like blowing weed bubbles underwater. On Before I Die, it's this duality that lets Hye Jin find her artistic voice. When Hye Jin shouts on "Me Trust Me," "I believe in myself," across a hazy guitar and luxuriously lethargic breakbeat, it's safe to say the rest of us are right behind her.
  • Tracklist
      01. Let’s Sing Let’s Dance 02. I Need You 03. Before I Die 04. Good Morning Good Night 05. Me Trust Me 06. Where Did I Go 07. Never Give Up 08. Can I Get Your Number 09. Whatchu Doin Later 10. Sex With ME (DEFG) 11. Where Are You Think 12. Never Die 13. Hey, Hey, Hey 14. Sunday ASAP 15. i jus wanna be happy