[Review] 'Do You Wanna B?' by Block B
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Hip-hop artist and producer Cho PD has taken the newly released boy band Block B under his wing and taught them a thing or two about transitioning from the underground scene into the mainstream. What is attention grabbing about this set of guys is that they're taking that 'underground' mindset and applying themselves to better their appeal to the masses. As a nod of respect, Cho PD has expressed that he has honed in on Block B's talent and allowed them artistic freedom right now rather than later on in their career. In a recent interview with OSEN, when asked about the stand-out qualities of the newly christened group, Cho PD answered: "What we lack in comparison, such as our resources and creativity, we must make up for in talent." Also, in another interview with Newsen, he stated: "Popularity can disappear, but talent will always remain. I want to instill in my artists the ability to grow on their own..." The walls of K-pop seem to be caving in rather than expanding these days, and by a quick skim of Cho PD's statements and previous interviews, he too feels it's time to start setting a firm foundation for Block B rather than launching them with little to offer like so many have done before. So how did their debut effort fare? --- Track List: 01 Wanna B 02 그대로 멈춰라! (Freeze) 03 나만 이런거야 --- Block B consists of Zico, Kyung, Taeil, P.O., Jae Hyo, U-Kwon, and B-Bomb. The group's main niche is rap/hip-hop - there are a total of three rappers, all of which have had experience spitting lines in the Korean hip-hop scene. The rest of the posse are vocalists, with Taeil leading the pack as main vocals. Block B's debut mini album is titled "Do You Wanna B?", and it features three songs, all of which resonate those hip-hop vibes mentioned earlier. Usually it's the established hip-hop stars like Supreme Team or Epik High who bring the mouthful of rap and bold phrases to the K-pop scene - lyrics and flow that are otherwise out of sight and out of mind - but it's definitely a nice sight to see rookies coming out with that style from the get-go, as it adds to the diversity K-pop music strives for. Block B are currently promoting their lead single, "Freeze", and just by the sound of it, it's clear they've dolled the song up with glitz and glamor to give it that commercial feel. Truthfully, it's rather generic for a debut single, but I realized it was going to sound like that going in. Why? Because Block B are new and are trying to bridge the gap between hip-hop and pop music. That, and the fact that they have to cooperate as a unit of rappers and singers now. It's not easy in this day and age to drop into the scene with new music when pop leans towards over-processing and excessive amounts of electronic twists and turns; that wasn't the case when Big Bang debuted, therefore their transition from hip-hop to pop-hip-hop (or what have you) was a clean and smooth one. Now they're on top of the world, but it's a different environment now, so we shouldn't use that to take away from Block B's efforts. "Freeze" follows the books and does a fine job of transitioning between the verses and pre-chorus just like a good pop song should. The melodies, though, are where things fall right into place - they're simple, catchy, and work well with Block B's voices. "Freeze" also has a nice sense of direction and dives head first into an impressive rap break about 2:20 in. It'll be your first glimpse at the true talent that is driving Block B: rap. Zico (and company) have a surprisingly exceptional flow, one that definitely stands out among the boybands in K-pop. In particular, Zico has a long standing history with the underground hip-hop scene and has previously released his own material, so he's certainly no stranger to the game. It's one thing to recite lines that have been manufactured by a big name agency (insert every idol rapper), and a complete other to have the skill, experience, and authenticity of an artist who raps. "Freeze" doesn't do this group any justice on that front.... ...but that's where "Wanna B" comes in. "Wanna B" is way more on point with the hip-hop style Block B is going for. This song is chock-full of rap lines and you can really tell who's rhyming what because each rapper has a distinguishing color to their voice. One is super throaty (P.O.), the other is higher in pitch (Kyung), and then you have one who stands somewhere in between (Zico). There's diversity there and it stretches to the vocalists, who insert the necessary releases of tension built up by the rappers. All in all, "Wanna B" is the preferred up-tempo song over the lead single, in my opinion. --- Block B is very new to the land of K-pop, but it's impressive that they wrote and produced the songs on this mini album. Consequently, in comparison to their peers, they are essentially waltzing in and single handedly upping the quality of the raps in K-pop, not to mention giving established songwriters a good run for their money. "나만 이런거야" alone, which doesn't hit as hard as the previous two songs, does a good job of sanding K-pop songs down to fairy dust with its contemporary-R&B style (나만 이런거야). Now where Block B will have trouble convincing audiences in their current evolution is on stage. In the recording studio, they are on top of their game, but they lose all the steam during their live performances (as expected from a rookie group). Basically, Block B lack the endurance and the stamina to deliver a vocally cohesive and consistent live stage, and it has shown in their recent performances (Block B - Freeze). To look at it another way, Block B don't have that K-pop versatility just yet to stand against the bigger pop groups, and given that they're mainstream now and on K-pop turf, that's something worth working on. Regardless, as a whole package, as long as Block B continue experimenting with their style, working on their vocals, and getting a little more creative without losing that strong hip-hop punch they possess, they'll really start seeing people take notice of their hard work. And who knows, hopefully they may even get more than two minutes of air time on these weekly music programs. --- Overall Rating: 4.3/5 --- What are your thoughts on this mini album? — Suggestions for a future review? 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