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Epik High Soars to New Heights
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By Cathy Rose A. Garcia - Staff Reporter

Epik High is a popular Korean hip-hop group, composed of, from left, rappers Mithra and Tablo and disc jockey Tukutz. Epik High released their fourth album “Remapping the Human Soul” last month./ Korea Times Photo by Kim Ji-gon
Hip-hop culture, especially music, is enjoying unprecedented popularity in Korea these days. At the center of all is Epik High, a three-member hip-hop group whose new album ``Remapping the Human Soul” topped local music sales charts.
Epik High has successfully combined witty, socially conscious lyrics with infectious beats to come up with hit songs that helped popularize hip-hop music.

Composed of rappers Tablo, Mithra and disc jockey Tukutz, the group believes hip-hop still has a long way to go in Korea.
``Many still don’t consider hip-hop as a musical genre. It took us a long time to change that. It took us until this album to show that hip-hop music is music,” Tablo, whose real name is Lee Sun-wong, told The Korea Times in an interview on Wednesday.
Epik High released their debut album ``Map of the Human Soul” in 2004, followed by ``High Society” and ``Swan Song.” The song ``Fly” was one of the most popular songs in 2005.
Tablo said their fourth album ``Remapping the Human Soul” reflects the musical and personal growth of the members.
``When we made ‘Map of the Human Soul,’ basically we wanted to make the first song and the last song signify birth and death and everything else that happens in between… Back then there were things that we didn’t know in music and life. Through the years, we became different people, so we wanted to re-draw the map of the human soul to better reflect all the changes and what we feel,” Tablo said.
The first single, ``Fan,” about a fan’s obsessive love for a celebrity, has already received a lot of radio airplay. ``The way somebody falls in love with a star is the same as somebody falling in love with anybody, a stranger or music… We wanted to talk about that kind of desperation and how it’s actually a stupid kind of love that’s determined to fail and lead to heartbreak,” Tablo said.
When asked whether they’re fans of any celebrity or anything, Tukutz said he’s a fan of Michael Jackson, while Mithra said he’s a fanatic of music.
Epik High took a year and a half to finish making ``Remapping the Human Soul.” Tablo said they all “went kind of crazy” making music non-stop, writing over 200 songs and recording 47 songs. But only 27 tracks made it in the two-disc album.
The album has courted controversy because some lyrics deal with sexual crimes, war, education and religion. Tablo can’t help but get passionate when talking about censorship, especially since he said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is trying to prevent some of the songs from being played on the radio.
``Most songs aren’t censored because of language. There are no cuss words or bad words. But if we talk about a social issue, we get censored. I don’t understand how discussing a social issue or saying that something wrong should be made right is bad for the youth… If talking about serious issues and reality and how to make it better is wrong; If we're living in that kind of society, things are not going to get any better,” Tablo said.
Despite the censorship, Epik High is not about to change their style. ``We're not going to say we're not doing this because it might mean less album sales. If we think that, then we're no longer doing things that we're supposed to do. We’re no longer being honest with ourselves. As long as it’s our heads, in our hearts, we’re going to approach that no matter what,” he said.
Epik High is a firm believer in using music as an instrument for social change. Tablo, who has been involved in social work for a long time, said music should be used to make people aware of the issues affecting society.
With hip-hop music all the rage around the world, many are wondering when Epik High will try their luck in the overseas market. ``Flow,” their collaboration with Japanese singer Emi Hinouchi, will soon be released as a single in Japan.
But Tablo said Epik High is in no hurry to go international.
``When the opportunity arises, we would love to. But I don’t think we’re in that big of a rush. Right now, we're enjoying making music here. There's still a lot that needs to be done here,” Tablo said. ``It’s just God's blessing that we became famous. It’s a blessing that we've become wanted in Korea. It’s not something we aspired to. Right now, we're content and we'll always be content with whatever we've got,” Tablo said.
cathy@koreatimes.co.kr 02-19-2007 18:15
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