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Review: Ugly Duck Blends A Classic Hip-Hop Beat With A Traditional Indigenous Sound On 'ASIA' [VIDEO]

By John Chiaverina | October 30, 2015 03:06 PM EDT

Everything old is new again on "ASIA," the new single released South Korean rap artist Ugly Duck, featuring Reddy, JJJ and DJ Scratch Nice.

"ASIA" combines fractured, skeletal 808 drum machine programming with a Gamelan-esque melodic sensibility and some cut up samples. The end result is an ultra contemporary sounding slice of Korean rap that still remains rooted both in classic hip-hop and traditional Asian culture.

Ugly Duck is a South Korean rapper who is currently affiliated with the AOMG (Above Ordinary Music Group) crew, founded by Jay Park and Simon D in 2013. Earlier this year, he was featured on the Jay Park cut "Mommae."

The other rappers on the track have qually impressive pedigree. Reddy comes from the crew Underwater Squad, which also includes the legendary Korean rapper Keith Ape. JJJ is a Japanese rapper and member of the up-and-coming duo Fla$hBackS.

I can't help but think about the rap duo Clipse when listening to "ASIA." The track's menacing pacing and minimalist industrial-yet-organic production sensibility brings me back to some of the best Neptunes-produced songs on the duo's landmark record "Hell Hath No Fury" from 2006.

To my ears, "ASIA" specifically recalls "Numbers On The Boards," the 2013 solo single from Clipse member Pusha T. This is not a bad thing! It seems like the Odd Future boys drink from the same well of Neptunes-indebted dark minimalism, and things have worked out pretty well for them.

Rapping on "ASIA" alternates between Korean and a little bit of English, giving the whole thing quite a bit of swagger. Cadences seem informed by recent developments in American rap music without fully parroting them.

The whole thing has the casual, loose feel of a 1990s rap posse cut. They even shout out Ninja Lager, a beer I was unfamiliar with until hearing this song.

It doesn't feel contrived, however. The beer shout out in rap is a tried and true tradition; just ask Wu-Tang Clan about talking about drinking a quart of Ballantine Ale.

The Bronx-based turntablist DJ Scratch Nice adds some additional flare to the song's chorus, coming strong with a classic scratch sentence that wouldn't be out of place on a track by a golden age East Coast hip-hop group like Gang Starr.

Plus, is that a Nas sample I hear? Yes, I think it is. Nice.

Whatever the origin is of the source material, "ASIA" is a strong outing from all three rappers and an exciting moment for the exploding Korean hip-hop scene.

Watch the music video for "Asia" by Ugly Duck Featuring Reddy, JJJ and DJ Scratch Nice RIGHT HERE

John Chiaverina is a musician and journalist living in New York City. He has performed in over 18 countries, including two tours of South Korea, under the name "Juiceboxxx."  

Tagged :  ugly duck, Reddy, JJJ, DJ Scratch Nice, K-Pop, kpop, review, Reviews, k-rap, korean rapper, korean rap


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