Tablo is one of those rare kpop artists that you can’t turn your backs on. His creative flow was previously represented as 1/3 of the popular hip hop group Epik High, but while the aforementioned takes a break, Tablo has risen to the occasion depicting new growth and style not only as a solo artist, but as a man who’s evidently transitioned over the years. There’s no need for me to stress on his past difficulties or controversies regarding his educational background, for the music should be more than enough to keep us satisfied and less fascinated with his personal life. Tablo has re-emerged unto the Kpop scene with his debut two part solo album “Fever’s End.” Intriguingly enough, inspiration for the album comes from the “pain and struggle” the artist faced over the years, and how he has managed to overcome it all. I’m a sucker for deepness and if the songs are as invoking as the title and concept then this is bound to be one of the best Kpop albums of the year.
So now loyal readers of my dissecting trends, let’s evaluate this release to uncover the truth, is it really worth the wait?
The album opens up with the melancholy “Home.” The track is emotionally driven by a sorrowful piano melody for the most parts, along with Tablo’s smooth rapping and a sorrowful chorus performed by the talented Lee Sora. Drums, mournful echoes, and other sound effects are plunged into the end, fading out the track with a more symphonic rock vibe. The composition is so soundtrack-esque. It carries the feeling of a balladry, tormenting the souls of those who dare to listen. With each note my heart bleeds with the melody and that’s exactly what the lyrics convey. The song’s about leaving all the troubles behind and finding comfort within a peaceful place. This is an interesting way to start things off, as it’s basically about realizing the pain and facing it.
After hearing the lead track “Bad,” I immediately became addicted to the line “Love is so bad, bad, bad, bad, bad” because isn’t that somewhat true when you’ve drowned yourself so much in it that you’ve lost all self-control and sense of stability. Tablo raps about loving someone so bad that it becomes suffocating. He’s changed from being the free-spirited man he once was to being the love sick and lonely man he is now. I particularly like how dark and sensual the music video is. The concept ties in with how sad the words are. The song has an indie feel to it and Jinsil’s sweet but bitter vocals are like icing on the cake.
Kpop has some of the most dejected singers I’ve ever heard. And this comes from a good place. There’s so much uncontrollable emotion in their voices that is just unimaginable. I’m only at the third track and already my eyes are tearing up from all this sad and passionate music. “Airbag” features the enthralling vocal performance by Naul, assisting the rapper in telling the story about being backed in a corner with the issues of life, and needing a release to set him free. The track opens with a soothing acoustic guitar then moves into a 90’s hip hop charged beat, but flowing back into the acoustic session during a slight break in between the verses and chorus. I like how everything works and nothing gets lost in the background. Naul’s harmonies are both romantic and heartwrenching at the same time. What a bad fellow for making me feel so captivated.
“The Tide” picks up the tempo and lightens the mood, just a little at least. The track features sick scratching by DJ Friz, and a rap fused synth that sounds borrowed from Dr. Dre. I mean that as a compliment. The song’s about not getting caught up into the façade but remaining true to yourself. No matter what, resist what the world wants to change you into and continue “swimming away” from it all. You can’t help but love the message and enjoy the beat, especially the sound of the ocean during the bridge. This is a song I can chill to.
What stood out to me the most in “Try” is the calming sound of the raindrops alongside the ecstasy like beat. And of course the intensity felt in Tablo’s rapping and Bumkey’s singing is just as note worthy. The track is very laidback but concludes the first part of the album beautifully. It’s about doing your best to be there for someone as much as they’ve been there for you in the past. The song’s sounding like a promise to his beloved, and with the cute voice of his offspring included at the end one can only think that the song is about his love for his family. Well, that’s just my interpretation of it.
The first half had me completely taken over by emotion. It’s certainly appealing even though sorrowful all at once. However, I’m left in anticipation as to where the story goes from here and if the mood of the album will improve.
“Tomorrow” would have to be my absolute favorite on the entire album. With all do respect, Taeyang is wonderful an all, but my heart gravitates towards this track with or without the soulful crooner. One thing’s for certain, the tempo picked up but the bittersweet concept remains. The song’s about putting your life on hold and simply waiting for the return of your lost love. The key point of the track is that heavy hitting drum beat during the chorus. That just blows up your stereo and get’s you moving, even though it’s not necessarily a party track. I like how the music slows down towards the bridge and the song increases the intensity. It’s incredibly arranged; the best choice to start off the second part of the album. The video on the other hand threw me off a bit. I understood the desert setting and the sense of emptiness that it signifies, but hot cars drifting and an helicopter flying around didn’t quite add up to the song’s meaning.
Tablo goes in on “Source.” The song’s thought provoking lyrics touches on poverty, societal values and beliefs, injustice, and other issues detrimental to the world as we know it. It’s definitely conscious in words and music; the old school hip hop beat highlights the purpose even further, in my opinion. And I’ve always liked when rappers record songs like these, not just about love loss and love gained.
The conscious lyrics continue in “Dear TV/Alleviate a Fever.” The beat is powerful while the words are aggressive. The track seems directed towards the media and the mentality created regarding the image of the artist. The line that stood out the most would have to be “Don’t act like you know me ’cause you recognize me. You sell my record, not me.” Those words speak so much truth. One might think they know the entertainers based on what we’re fed by the media but if you haven’t spoken with them personally then you don’t really know who they are behind the music, or film. Though short, this is exceptionally deep and it portrays what a talented artist Tablo truly is.
The acoustic and indie style returns in “Thank You For Breathing.” The song features Yankie & Bong Taegyu, both bringing their own edginess to a hyped and cheerful beat. It’s about overcoming the sadness and finally embracing life and all it has to offer. The song’s also about appreciating the wonderful people in your life; family and friends are all we need to support and love us enough to get through any difficulties. No more should we live in a dark and gloomy state, but “get up and stand up” and face the sun.
“Expired” concludes the album in a somewhat fearful state. Hence, the overemphasis in the lyrics of being abandoned or neglected, and how afraid he is of such things happening to him. It’s nice to hear him singing now and then but hopefully he won’t break the hearts of listeners every time he does. While I can accept how well written the words are in order to reflect his deep thought, it’s rather depressing to hear an album end this way. Still, I was feeling it.
It’s great to have Tablo back on the scene after being missing in action for a while. His mishaps have obviously fueled his inspiration to create this album and made a fan out of me. So, what are my final thoughts on this release? It’s safe to say that Tablo has revived hip hop in Korea, but I’m worried he made it a little too sorrowful for some. “Fever’s End” is a great first solo effort. The album gets a rating of 4.9/5
Track listing:PART 1 1. “Home” (feat. Lee Sora)
2. “It’s bad” (feat. Jinsil)
3. “Airbag” (feat. Naul)
4. “Tide” (Scratch by JD Friz)
5. “Try” (feat. Bumkey) PART 2 6. “Tomorrow” (feat. Taeyang)
7. “Source” (Scratch by DJ Tukutz)
8. “Dear TV/Alleviate a Fever”
9. “Thank You For Breathing” (feat. Yankee + Bong Tae Gyu)
10. “Expired” === (Purchase this album now on iTunes) Images credit: YGEntertainment Videos credit: YGTablo Send your requests to Kai (firstname.lastname@example.org)