Block B started off the year with much uncertainty. Contract disputes resulted in a lengthy legal battle with their former agency, Stardom Entertainment, which put a halt on the group’s activities and a large question mark over their future. Despite only debuting two years ago, their impact has become increasingly tremendous. Their hard-hitting hip-hop style has since reflected greatly in later and similar acts like B.A.P and Bangtan Boys, both of which have cited Block B as major influences and mentors. Now resettling into self-made label Seven Seasons, Block B is finally making their return with a new mini album. ‘Very Good’ offers a brief but varied reassurance to fans that the boys aren’t leaving anytime soon. (In fact, if ‘Very Good’ is any indicator, they’re about to get even better.)
“VERY GOOD”: With the electro-infused and frantic “Very Good” as opening track, Block B makes a confident comeback. The energy makes the single sound almost as if they picked right up where the pirate-punks of “Nilili Mambo” left off. Block B leader Zico’s line of ‘How many fake MCs out there?’ directly challenges the current state of the K-Pop scene, the kitsch of ‘aegyo rapping’ keeping the merits of many in question. The music video concept continues to project this rebellious idea, the ‘bank heist’ setting of the song reminiscent of a strange mixing of Lil Wayne’s “Got Money” and scenes from “The Dark Knight”.
“BE THE LIGHT”: “Be The Light” offers a completely different perspective, contrasting its opener with a striking ballad. Lyrically, the song is from the perspective of a lonely boy wishing to be acknowledged and adored by the girl of his interest again, hoping that being in her ‘light’ will rid her from the ‘darkness’ he has been living in. Still, knowing of the struggles Block B went through, one cannot help but consider this something of a metaphor for how the year’s legal dramas stifled the members’ relationship with their fans. While Block B is not necessarily known for being a ballad group, it is nice to see how well they were able to pull a ballad song off, and I hope to see similar songs from them in future releases.
“WHEN, WHERE, WHAT, HOW” featuring Jo Hyuna of Urban Zakapa: Kyung’s solo song “When, Where, What, How” oozes in an understated cool. Collaborations in K-Pop so commonly misuse the featured artists – for example, SISTAR’s Hyorin on Dynamic Duo’s latest album, but the appearance of Urban Zakapa’s Jo Hyuna on this track is both flawless and complementing. One of our past issue’s ‘Indie Women to Watch’, Hyuna adds a new layer of ‘coffee shop’ credibility to the nature of the song, only augmented further by light piano and mellow bass. “When, Where, What, How” brings a new facet to Park Kyung’s image and role within Block B. His quick vacillations between rhyme and song prove his label as the group’s ‘lead rapper’ to be a bit of an injustice. Kyung’s got a lot more tricks up his sleeve, and he doesn’t seem to mind showing them off.
“NICE DAY”: The final song “Nice Day” rounds the album out with another rap-heavy track, opening up by encouraging listeners back onto their feet. The song starts off by making an energetic shout-out to ‘party people’ and is paired with some hollering from the group’s rappers. However, the track the song is laid over does not seem to match the song as much as it probably should have. With embellished horns, drums, and piano, the accompaniment seems to better fit a jazz lounge than the hip-hop stage the hook and verses seem to have been written for. While exploring new genres and styles is integral to the further evolution of a group’s sound, it would have been nice to see something of a ‘throwback’ effort closing the album out. Last album ‘Blockbuster’ somewhat mastered the use of primal beats and urban sound, making it difficult to adapt to this newer approach.
Overall, Block B seems to be developing a new plan of attack with their sound, offering a pretty wide range of genres and styles over a short four-track span. Known as something of the resident ‘hip-hop group’ of K-Pop, ‘Very Good’ shows that there are still more sides to Block B begging to be discovered. It will be exciting to see resurgence in production from the group. Just recently enjoying their first music show win on last month’s Inkigayo, the absence of their talent has been evidentially and greatly missed from the K-Pop scene. It’s good to have you back, boys. Now go back in the studio, and record us a longer album!