Every day until the end of February, we’ll highlight one of our favorite Korean rappers on a countdown to #1.
Cresting the top five list is the one, the only…
This might be a bit long. I reaaaaally love him.
So, something happened with Zico when I first listened that typically doesn’t happen with most groups/solo artists that I check out: I listened to exactly one Zico solo song and immediately knew I was going to stan.
Immediately his style stuck out to me, and his animated nature was as delightful to watch as it was to listen to.
Of all of the Korean rappers I’ve ever listened to, he is by far the most interesting and among the most animated alongside being among the most talented. I’d give a kidney to watch him record an entire album in-studio just to see how he gets into it.
On top of that, his voice knows no limits to the point where it almost sounds like a different person each song. In the same vein, no two Zico solo songs sound the same, not just vocally but musically and lyrically as well.
As for technical skill, he’s not lacking.
Quite the opposite.
Zico is among the fastest in the industry, able to rap 10.13 syllables per second–something only the rapper Flowsik can do.
This is faster than even BTS’ Min Yoongi and Stray Kids’ Changbin, who have been shown to be able to rap 9.38 syllables per second.
Pair that with his absolutely fucking wild delivery and flow plus his lyrical content, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the best Korean rappers.
Let’s look at him from a lyrical standpoint. While he doesn’t avoid love songs, not every single song in his catalogue is based around relationships.
Instead he writes songs like Artist, about not being too afraid to create, not letting self-doubt and a lack of confidence stop you from putting your art out there, professing that art is for literally everyone.
People who are about to die of boredom
People who can never be high class
People who scratch and get bumps
People who are gonna kill it, oh yes
How much longer are your heads gonna be noisy?
If you have deep knowledge on art
Let’s draw something
From now on
Turn every back to a blank canvas
Don’t think, just do, you’re holding the brush
You have the most sense when you’re in front of the mirror
Life is short
Art is long
Any Song is a deceptively dark tune whose lyrics pull something of a Pumped Up Kicks in that the music is peppy while the song is talking about something unexpectedly darker. In this case, existential awareness as age starts to creep up on him and his friends disappear.
Some are struggling, some are partying
I feel so sentimental, I want my youth back
It was so noisy and then one by one
They all leave
Why is everyone so down?
What’s the problem, say something
It’s so icy here
Is this the trend these days?
Why is everyone so boring?
Actually, I guess I’m the same
Tell me what I got to do
Hurry and turn on the bluetooth
Let’s get in our last spurt before it’s too late
Not a lot of time left in our twenties
Change into comfy clothes
In No You Can’t, he shows he’s not too shy to drop an aggressive, clever diss track:
Artists be pushing release dates instead of beats
Cause ZICO’s new track is about to drop
He’s also not afraid at taking controversial swipes at the industry and other artists, like in the song Say Yes or No:
There’s no one to really compare me with, I don’t use punch lines these days
Get out of my way, you newbies just quit trying to write songs
Just practice your dance moves, there’s no surgery for increasing skill
But I think one of the best examples of what I’m trying to describe here is his song ANTI, featuring GSoul.
ANTI is a meta-song about idol life, almost like an open letter to himself, asking why he puts up with the wild shit that kpop idols are expected to deal with.
He takes a cynical look at the lives of other idols, too, practically asking them the same question.
It isn’t often that super popular idols put out very specific social commentary songs (except for our queen Sunmi who doesn’t give a fuck and does so often, too).
When they do, it usually isn’t even this direct, blatant and raw.
Take a look at some isolated verses:
Celebrities are blinded by the spotlights
Deafened by the applause
So they see and hear but they can’t do anything
I’m not an anti its fan mail
Once you rack up those positive comments
That means you’re past your prime
If I cause some trouble right now, that’ll be nice timing
Preparing my mouth for some violent language
Our needs are simple, just need one sentence that’s off
Interpreting it is my job, I’ll decide the meaning
100 good deeds are on the sand
One error gets engraved on stone
The camera lens turns into a gun barrel
You should know
No matter how shitty things are for you, you need to dance properly
If you agree say yes
Listen, the moment you made your stage name, I had to kill you
It’s your choice
If you wanna succeed, you need to be criticized, get on the chopping block
Professionals always need to smile
You need to be judged to earn popularity
How can privacy exist in a product?
This place and its consumers are king
Keep your character in check, hide your face
That’s the reason you wear hats and masks
In all of the songs mentioned above, and the rest of his catalogue, for that matter, Zico talks about anything and everything and does so in a way that’s impossibly animated and fun.
When he talks shit, you feel like it’s personal.
When he’s encouraging you to create, you feel uplifted.
When he tells you to take a look at the world around you, you feel compelled to open up your eyes with tape on your eyelids and peer at the ugly truth.
For all of Zico’s absolute perfection, he makes it to #5 on our list of favorite Korean rappers this month.
Below, I’ve put together my favorite Zico tracks, including solos and features. I typically try to keep it limited to only five but that’s literally impossible with him. Sorry. But not really.
Check back tomorrow to see who comes in at #4!
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