Friday, November 9th, 2018

Haon ft. Jay Park & Hoody – Noah

High School Rapper graduates, matriculates at TSJU…


Ramzi Awn: Haon and Jay lay down some sultry licks, and Hoody’s vocal is pure bliss. The beat channels Basement Jaxx and in terms of both structure and melody, “Noah” is composed beautifully. It’s nice to still be surprised.  

Will Rivitz: If a nightcore remix of Nujabes somehow turned out good, this is sort of what it would sound like.

Alex Clifton: I get a ’90s vibe from the production, not necessarily in the ~nostalgic~ way that’s been popular lately (thankfully no Britney references here), but more like a boyband backing track that is more adventurous than usual. That’s a good thing, by the way. I can’t say that Haon ever fully gets off the ground for me to fully get behind him — I remember the featured artists’ hooks more than his own — but it’s a pleasant listen nonetheless.

Edward Okulicz: For about 15 seconds, this threatens to be more SAD FEELINGS hip-hop, but the beat kicking in animates that piano line as much as it does Haon’s initial verse. By the time the hook comes in, it’s morphed into a jazzy Latin number. It’s the nimbleness of the production that carries this as much as the charisma of the leads. Not sure what on earth that third verse is on about but it sure sounds confident.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Haon and Jay Park do their part here, trading verses with ease and swagger — the younger partner sounding confident for his age, the older sounding enlivened. But “Noah” works mostly on the strength of Hoody’s smooth hook and GroovyRoom’s even smoother production, a Latin-tinged beat that keeps things moving at the requisite pace for the boasts to work.

Ryo Miyauchi: While Jay Park appoints Haon as next in line for his H1GHR label in “Noah,” the young rapper sounds hardly up to the task. Though his seemingly lack of effort is not so much his lack in skill, but more of a generational divide. Jay Park’s celebratory verse is almost laughable from it being tone-deaf at least against Groovyroom’s surprisingly maudlin, piano-fiddling beat. Haon, too, brushes off some passed-down responsibility to instead bury himself in his own thoughts. His boss wants him to succeed, but the boy really just wants to rap.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I was fascinated by Seo Taiji as a teenager. He was an artist who was willing to adopt different strains of music for the entirety of his career, subsuming them into his identity without losing a sense of who he was — something succinctly portrayed in his willingness to cover older songs in newer styles. While his story is one born out of an artistic insatiability, it’s also a reflection of South Korea’s curious position in the global marketplace from the late ’80s onward. For a people who had been oppressed for ages — be it from other countries or their own government’s military dictatorship — there was a question that could be answered anew: What does it mean to be Korean? It was a question for the country at large, especially given their newfound international spotlight post-’88 Olympics, but individual people could find new forms of self-expression after the strengthening of South Korea’s economic relations and the relaxing of censorship laws. Seo Taiji’s genre-agnosticism modeled what that could look like for a new generation of South Koreans. To be sure, he had the luxury of employing such stylistic blending because his Korean audience was less concerned with authenticity; the music could be made without a necessary coupling with its original culture, image, or personality. Fortuitously, his albums sounded less like egregious appropriation and more like self-discovery. Halfway around the world, I found myself transfixed; through his music, Seo Taiji had shown me that a scrawny Korean kid could be whatever he wanted, and no one in Western media was relaying that message to me. Listening to “Noah,” I hear five Korean artists presenting a similar aspiration for boundlessness. All five are noteworthy and self-made: Haon was the winner of reality competition show High School Rapper 2, Jay Park is an ex-idol who signed with Roc Nation and started his own successful record labels, Hoody is a singer and producer who has pushed the country’s R&B scene to impressive heights, and production duo GroovyRoom has played a pivotal role in shaping Korea’s rap scene into something wholly distinct. While the guitar figure and shuffling beat are clearly riding the Latin wave, neither reggaeton’s thrust nor trap’s all-consuming percussion is here. In other words, it sounds like Korean pop rap despite and because it borrows from elsewhere. In an interview with HiphopLE, Haon stated that Noah is an alter-ego of sorts, the “friend” who comes out in his songwriting. Noah reflects a desire for freedom and creative expression, and it’s appropriate that it’s simply his Korean name backwards: a reminder that whatever music he makes, it’s still representative of who he truly is. Jay Park anchors “Noah” with a proclamation that he wants to exceed the expectations that the world has for him. Crucially, he interpolates a line from “Garasadae,” a song that features three rappers from his label H1GHR Music. “Thus Saith H1GHR Music: Piss Off,” he calmly states, further establishing the one-track mind toward success he has for himself and his friends. Even further, Park says that he views Haon as an equal despite the age difference — shocking given the importance of age-based hierarchy in Korea. He understands that their accomplishments will act as examples for a new generation, and the camaraderie they display will only encourage people to work collaboratively toward their goals. Park’s cool braggadocio pairs effectively with Haon’s verses. The latter’s frenetic rhythms reveal that his take on such upward trajectory is equal parts nervousness and excitement. Hoody’s pre-chorus rounds it out by showing the underlying worry that always persists. After all, these modes of self-expression are still new to Korea. It’s all encapsulated in the chorus: “I don’t know.” It acts as an answer to the question, “What does it mean to be Korean?” Not because of confusion, but because of endless possibility.

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