Going from a normal high school student contesting in High School Rapper 2 (stage named – Clloud), to being the “Gang, Gang” melodic rapper of The Quiett’s Ambition Musik label, 22-year old ASH ISLAND’s growth as an artist has been phenomenal!
This diamond in the rough that was picked up by the “Bition Boyz”, has been polished over the years and his brightening sheen through these years has been a great joy to witness for all K-Hiphop enthusiasts worldwide. The winner of KHA 2020’s “New Artist of the Year” Award, ASH ISLAND (Yoon Jin Young) is back with his 2nd Studio Album titled ‘ISLAND’, after his previous full album (ASH) in 2019.
The 11-tracked album which features 3 Pre-released tracks (‘Melody’, ‘Error’ and ‘Beautiful’) boasts a stellar lineup, featuring artists like Jay Park, lIlBOI, Beenzino, The Quiett, Swings, among many more. The full album was released on 5th March 2021 and serves tracks that attest to ASH ISLAND’s biggest supporters, TOIL– who produced the whole album and Skinny Brown – who featured in a track and even helped in the composition of the album. With this latest release from ASH ISLAND, the young rapper also featured on the cover of Spotify’s ‘K-Hip-Hop +82 Playlist’ which represents +82 K-Hiphop’s sickest rhymes and beats.
“If it wasn’t for Jinyoung, I wouldn’t be here either.” – shares TOIL in his Instagram story with ‘Lonely’ playing from ‘ISLAND’ Album.
The album kicks off in a signature ASH ISLAND way – with a blending of genres of Hiphop and Rock – where ASH ISLAND uses his expressive and emotional vocal abilities and equally descriptive lyrical sense to nostalgically talk of the memories of a lover long gone and how her absence makes him remember her even in the tiniest of routine things.
Backed by a euphonious beat and mellow rhythmic instrumentation, the artist profoundly reminisces as he sings, “This melody that I have seemed to have heard somewhere/ Little things come to mind, my memories/ The sofa that holds me is too big, It’s too much/ The more I remember, the more I become a Loser”, closing the 1st track ‘Melody’ on the introspective reflection, “I’m a Loser”.
OKAY (Ft. Swings)
The next track, ‘OKAY’ continues this stream of reminiscing the moments spent together, while the artists go through this internal turmoil of emotions, drifting between “Baby, you seem to have left me now/But I’m thinking of you, even though it was a long time ago/Actually, it’s not okay/ Yes, I’m not okay” and “You don’t need to be strong, we can go again, yeah….I’m okay”.
ASH ISLAND also puts his auto-tuned vocals to good use in the repetitive chorus and post-chorus which seems to be an attempt by him to reassure himself with the repetition of “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” after “then I’ll be okay”. The cool transition to K-Hiphop’s Powerhouse, SWINGS’ verse where he comes in while ASH ISLAND is still singing, with a conversational dialogue said to his lover: “Baby, sometimes we need a little space, so we could, you know/ That our relationship breathes, but it ain’t over yet” is also noteworthy. This transition and the way in which these two very distinct styles of rap flows of the two artists merge into one cohesive track, is what makes the listeners’ totally hooked on and captivated.
After this graphic vocalization of the emotional turmoil, the next track ‘OVER’ takes over the listeners’ eardrums and mind while warming their hearts with empathy. ASH ISLAND seems to finally accept the parting from his beloved in the track, as his impassioned vocals ring, “All of my emotion, your body too/ Now that it’s gone, throw it away, mine too/ Our emotion is over/ I know it’s over (I think it’s over)/ It’s over.” By combining these sensitized vocals with a stirring melody at the beginning and then their climax into a full-fledged Band orchestration and power-packed chorus, ‘OVER’ is definitely one of the tracks that would make it to everybody’s playlist, irrespective of their musical tastes!
A STAR IS BORN
Starting off with a beat that promises a great climactic chorus, ‘A STAR IS BORN’ is the perfect example of ASH ISLAND’s laconic yet highly captivating injection of different genres (especially Rock) into his rap style. It also pays homage to one of the rappers ASH ISLAND looks up to, ‘Post Malone (nicknamed Posty)’ as he compares his feeling of being a rockstar to Posty’s and realizes that all the glam he worked for isn’t the path to fulfillment after all: “Soy sauce crab [Ganjang-gejang] is better than lobster” (Lobster is part of what is known as the ‘Posty’s Plate’).
His questioning of “I’m a star, baby, but why all sad is on me?” is followed by an aggressive, blusterous vocal-toned chorus and outro, “I’m alone in the end/Sell my soul I’m a rockstar, yeah/ I hang my neck, I’m a rockstar, yeah/ Call me like this rockstar/ I’m a rockstar, yeah, I’m a rockstar”, bringing the track to a powerful and satisfying end.
Grand Prix (Ft. Beenzino)
“Faster, this is how we speed (Let’s go)/ Faster, this is how we speed (Skrr, skrr)”
Signaling the start of the rapid unleashing of verses as if in a Grand Prix race, a classic jazzy melody and a ticking beat sequence open up the power-packed track, ‘GRAND PRIX’. In a surprise abandoning of their chill melodic singing sides (both artists are known for their singing-rapping styles), the duo brings out their fiery rapper spirits, hyping up the listeners even more than if they had just done the revered but expected singing-raps.
Throwing in references of a clothing brand that he promoted (‘X: Ordinary’) and paying respect to his comrades, the Ambition family and his crew, PABLO MU2IK, ASH ISLAND in an aggressive fast-flow rap (reminiscent of his ‘Clloud’ days) spits heavy bars, “I’m gonna fly up there, this album is my grave/ Even if the fog doesn’t go away, I’ll leave my name”. He also promises that despite everything, his attitude will always be dignified and focused in this race of life/success: “Pants still hanging low like a penguin, my attitude/ I never go beggin’/ But baby, I’m still the fastest.”
P.S. The mention of Motorcycle gangs in India and Seoul engaged in speed battles by Beenzino also wouldn’t go unnoticed by our Indian K-Hiphop enthusiasts!
Checks (Ft. SUPERBEE, Jay Park & The Quiett)
Guaranteeing a groovy track with its star-studded artists’ lineup of SUPERBEE, Jay Park & The Quiett, all connected together by ASH ISLAND’s catchy and gritty Hook, ‘Checks’ is all about living like (as SUPERBEE puts it), the “Big baller from the gutta, Life of pie”.
With ASH ISLAND in charge of the vocalizing aspect, the other veteran rappers talk of their highly acclaimed lifestyles and the tough road to achieving it, flexing in their own unique rap styles and cadences. While SUPERBEE braggadociously and quite righteously claims, “I have no tears ’cause I’m top tier (FACTS!)”, Jay Park in his bilingual fashion flexes, “Label of the year, 10 racks on some champagne/ Always on the go never like my last name” and The Quiett, calm and composed but with a burning fire drops dignified bars, “My boys all get checks like Nike, I got it all/ Now I shoot Jordan commercials, Spike Lee”. Hence, with multiple references and actual facts boasts, these “Young OGs gathered on the TOIL beat” leave listeners’ feeling, “What more can I say? Fire emojis” about the track!
Taking a turn from the glam and grind of the “Rockstar life”, ‘eclipse’ turns down the fire and brings out the icy chill; the transition of which is seen in the somber and melancholic melody that greets the listeners as the track begins playing. Carrying these wistful sentimental vibes forward is ASH ISLAND’s stirring vocals as he sings, “I can’t see anymore like an eclipse/ You blinded me, How you feelin’/ Every night was alone, if I die/ Don’t even call, Don’t even call, please don’t” as he expresses his wish to just be free of the nightmares that drag him down.
However, the key element of this short track that adds a beautiful texture to it while enhancing the moody atmosphere set by ASH ISLAND, is the lo-fi Hiphop bass-boosted beat that kicks in right after the passional hook!
Starting off with a rather poignant, bittersweet instrumental than the somber one of ‘eclipse’, ASH ISLAND showcases the true potential and beauty of his vocal abilities as he strips off the gritty, auto-tune and delivers a syrupy Bridge, followed by a beautiful euphony in ‘Lonely’. Furthering the theme of nostalgia and melancholia while talking to the ex-lover, ASH ISLAND switches between a fast-paced (as if in an anxious hurry to voice it all out) Pre-chorus and a mellow easy-flowing Chorus, vocalizing, “Even if I turn out to be lying to you/ I mean it, I’ll bet everything I got/ I’m drowning/ I feel so lonely.”
Error (Ft. Loopy)
Translating these forlorn feelings of reminiscence and emptiness, ‘Error’ is a perfect mesh of ASH ISLAND’s rock-infused vocals and Loopy’s nostalgic, quintessential husky-toned verses in his signature Modern and Fresh rapping style. Introducing the listeners’ to the track with a dramatic violin melody, mellowed down by the guitars, ‘Error’ kicks off with a very ASH ISLAND-Esque, emotive verse where just the way he packages his emotions into the sonics and the lyrics, add depth to his music, making the listeners’ gravitate towards it readily. The beat production and layering, especially during the Refrain and in areas where the water motif comes through in the music video, is just exquisite as well.
Beautiful (Ft. Skinny Brown)
Originally released in 2019, ‘Beautiful’ is a special homage to the late inspirational rapper, JUICE WRLD, the loss of whom was mourned by all the people in the world and by ASH ISLAND who was an ardent listener of his music. However, despite the gloom and grief of the theme, ASH ISLAND’s track promises in a charming dulcet Chorus, “Baby, it was beautiful/Another love is gone/ Everyone is acting dumb/ But I’ll smile too, smile/Even if winter passes, spring will come/ The flowers which faded will bloom again.”
In including it in Album ‘ISLAND’ however, the focus of this absence of a person is shifted more to the past-lover in connection with the underlying framework of the album, making this a commendable double entendre track. However, the highlight of the track is the Bridge part where the beats fade away and just the soft, soul-stirring melody remains as ASH ISLAND sings, “I will miss you forever in my heart/ WRLD is beautiful wherever you are/ we will stay forever, you are the last one/ I will miss you forever in my heart” and the way that he starts his verse, rapping the lines of JUICE WRLD, “Yeah, I love you everybody, get home safe, gang, gang.”
One More Night (Ft. lIlBOI)
Featuring heartwarming instrumentation that is refreshing to hear after the bittersweet feel of the preceding tracks, ‘One More Night’ is the exemplar of ASH ISLAND’s exquisite bending of the conventions of Hiphop to infuse other genres into the classic Hiphop sounds.
The song brings forth the most alluring blend of melodic auto-tuned vocals (with an echoing effect that adds an extra punch), polished and immaculate rap flows of the duo, and a qualitative zing of Rock instrumental break-down that elevates the track to a whole new level!
“Walking in the exact opposite direction of the start”, ‘One More Night’ talks of the rapid temporal slippage (like the shooting stars in the sky) when the two lovers are together for the very last night. Here, ASH ISLAND attempts to persuade the lover saying, “Time doesn’t help us with our night/ What’s more, it flows faster/ tightens the rest of my breath/ So let’s stay together longer (woah)/ Let’s cross the door called Tomorrow” and lIlBOI in his suave, affected rap-style enunciates, “Now this time isn’t just a pain, Cause I see your eyes full of galaxy/ We are young, but we want to be forever, these scenes/ Let’s stay till mornin’.”
This perfectly sums up the ending that ASH ISLAND probably was aiming for, as the emotionally charged reminiscent album comes a full circle, instilled with a wistful faith in the future and with a pronounced sense of maturity.
Journeying from nostalgic craving for the past and the turbulent emotions that accompany it, to celebrating the “rockstar life” and then, reclaiming of self from the dark side of this glam life, ASH ISLAND’s dialogue with his past-lover seems to be the link connecting this reflective introspection of himself and his relationships. This connecting link sees its conclusion on a more vibrant and assured note than the sensitive, melancholic strain running through the album.
Hence, with each track naturally flowing into the next while furthering a consistent storyline, ASH ISLAND’s 2nd studio album ‘ISLAND’ is a great mark of his artistry as it possesses the so-called ‘essence’ that seems to be missing in a lot of albums these days.
Also, check out his magnetic performance of two of these tracks on the recent Korean Hiphop Awards 2021: