The rise in popularity of K-hip-hop and K-r&b has fundamentally changed the K-pop landscape, and we’re reeling from those effects this summer. Hip-hop sub-units are nothing new for idol groups (hello, Infinite H!), but in a climate where this sound is becoming more ubiquitous they no longer feel like an unpredictable novelty. Bringing together members Sehun and Chanyeol, EXO-SC will be EXO’s first-ever attempt at a full-on hip-hop album.
SM Entertainment is giving this project a robust promotional push, promising no less than three title tracks. Of course, the definition of “title track” can be open for debate. In my opinion, Just Us 2 (있어 희미하게) feels more like a bonus pre-release. But whatever its purpose, I’m predicting that I’ll enjoy this song more than upcoming title track What A Life, which already sounds too indebted to a tired trap style. If you’re going to go the mellow hip-hop route — especially with a vocal blend like Sehun and Chanyeol’s — Just Us 2’s warm, easygoing aesthetic is the best way to do it.
Much of this comes down to the influence of producers. The bulk of SC’s upcoming album will be composed by Devine Channel, who rarely create music that appeals to me. Just Us 2, on the other hand, rides on a beat by hip-hop producer Gray, who’s always been a master at this simple, summery style (though I could do without the squeaky plink plink of keys that overtakes much of this track). Throw in Gaeko on vocals and the song feels authentic and effortless. I like that it’s a mix of rap and singing, allowing both members to display a variety of talents. Chanyeol’s lower tone contrasts well with Gaeko’s standout hook, which has an appealing lilt that cuts through the somewhat monotonous verses. I don’t think that K-hip-hop will ever fully click with me in the way that idol releases do, but Just Us 2 definitely has its charms.