K-Pop Beyond The Charts is a weekly review column highlighting Korea’s modern day musical innovators who have yet to find mainstream success.
Released on April 7 as a digital single, “Just Do It” is the newest release from the South Korean rapper, vocalist and producer Gray, featuring the rapper Loco.
The single is a hip-hop and soul hybrid that is at once melodic and banging, with something to offer for fans of rap, R&B and K-pop.
Gray (whose real name is Lee Sung Hwa) is currently signed to the AOMG Label, the brainchild of another popular Korean rapper, Jay Park.
The release is something of a family affair.
Loco is also signed to AOMG.
The impressive production on “Just Do It” feels indebted to the extremely popular US rap producer DJ Mustard, but contains enough twists and turns to stand on its own within a K-pop context.
Like a lot of Mustard’s production, the song features snaps on the two and four, with intermittent vocals on the upbeat, much in line with regional West Coast rap variant genres like Jerk and Hyphy.
This rhythmic feel is cut with a deep bass synth that feels tethered to another West Coast tradition, G-Funk.
When paired together, the sound has all the hallmarks of Mustard’s best known work, but with an added melodicism that feels in some ways connected to the contemporary Japanese pop tradition.
Which is to say jazzy and sophisticated, but still electronic.
A melodic chorus further moves the song into the soul realm, but Gray’s vocals (and signature whisper ad-libs) keep things hip-hop.
The whole thing glides through with a refreshing smoothness, something like an audio Arnold Palmer, half hip hop and half R&B.
“Just Do It” is a masterclass in setting the vibe.
The track has a classic chilled out feel that would make it fit perfectly into an expert warm up rap DJ set; just the right thing to play to set the mood as people are streaming into the club and getting ready for a raging night.
A relaxing mix of contemplative synths and banging drums, “Just Do It” is also something for those top down summer nights, driving around without a care in the world.
During any of those moments, let Gray and Loco be your spirit guide and just do it! Listen to the single “Just Do It” from Gray featuring Loco 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.”