South Korean-born and now LA-based producer, rapper, singer, and DJ, 박혜진 Park Hye Jin released her debut album, Before I Die, earlier this month. Completely written and produced by Park Hye Jin, the album was the highly anticipated follow-up to her two previously released EP’s, If You Want It (2018) and How Can I (2020). Both EP’s were given praise by critics for her inventive use of tonal melodies, driving bass, and dreamlike soundscapes. She also gained recognition for a string of collaborations, working with Clams Casino & Take A Daytrip (“Y DON’T U”), Blood Orange (“CALL ME (Freestyle)”) and Nosaj Thing (“CLOUDS”), plus a remix from Galcher Lustwerk (“Can you”).
Before I Die builds on these first two releases to deliver chill house tracks with thrumming basslines, as well as funkier hip-hop tracks laced with Hye Jin’s rhymes and melodies as she raps and sings in both English and Korean. Featuring 15 tracks, the disc starts off with “Let’s Dance”, a smooth house track with a pretty piano progression with Hye Jin’s trance-like vocals chanting “let’s sing, let’s dance”. Next is “I Need You”, which begins as a delicate piano ballad and shifts to a quicker pace as the trap beat kicks in, underscoring the chords and suiting the cadence of her rhymes perfectly; it’s a slow groove that still keeps the energy pumping. Other house tracks on the album are “Sex with Me”, which offers a lighter danceable electronic beat with her moody vocals driving the melody, and “Never Die”, a peppier, more playful house track, with a happy hardcore vibe that will make you want to dance until the wee hours.
Not one to be pegged as a techno DJ only, the album includes several songs that feature a strong hip-hop beat, and even lend themselves to R&B and jazz. The title track “Before I Die”, is a slower rhythm with a steady groove and a delicate reggae rap vocal that casts some light on the heavy bass. “Me Trust Me” will get you bouncing with its old-school hip-hop vibe and delivery of soulful riffs and swaggering bass line. I hear jazz influences in the cool “Where did I Go”, a fusion of intricate and off-beat jazz riffs stacked with ethereal, zen-like lyrics; and “Watcha Doin Later” starts off sounding like an R&B slow jam with a soulful piano line until the trap track kicks in, kicking up the pace and giving a steady heartbeat to the song.
박혜진 Park Hye Jin’s first full-length album plays with multiple genres through an electro lens. She combines and layers vocals, beats, musical styles, and languages to create a body of work that holds the listener’s attention, curious about what will come next. An inventive artist who reveals her unique musical persona with every bar, she’s showing us through this album the exact kind of boundless artist she is, and the pulsating music she’s drawn to create. Before I Die is now available to stream on Spotify and is available on Ninja Tune.