*This review contains some strong language, as well as discusses themes such as violence and mental health.
If your souls have long been gone and you have nothing to trade tonight, I pluck the life from you to tonight! Give me music! Give me music! Give me music!”
The date? June 23th, 2015.
The album? Nochang’s MY NEW INSTAGRAM : MESURECHIFFON.
Completely self-written and self-produced, this album took shots at everyone: haters, fellow rappers, a certain reporter who shall not be named, Nochang’s company Just Music, the hiphop scene. Not even he himself was safe from his sharp tongue and heavy criticism.
Before we get into discussing the album, I feel it’s necessary to briefly explain “the incident” that happened prior to My New Instagram’s release. I won’t go into much detail, as this was a personal and very private matter that was unfortunately made public, and quite frankly one of the most ridiculous “scandals” that I’ve seen so far.
More or less what had happened was Nochang accidentally made an Instagram post about something very personal, which was meant to be a DM. Within five minutes the post was deleted, along with his whole Instagram page, but it was too late, as a reporter had gotten a screen shot and proceeded to write an article about it. This was damaging not only to Nochang, but to people he cared about, and probably had a negative impact on his reputation.
Out of the anger and hatred that followed, My New Instagram (as we know it today) was born. While the album was originally meant to take a different direction, the final product was what Nochang refers to in an interview with HipHople ( translated on tumblr, links below) as “chaos within myself.” It is a snapshot of who he was and what his feelings were at that moment – the lyrics read like a stream of consciousness, at times. Let’s dive into that and break down some of the lyrics and themes.
난 성격이 나빠, shit, shit, shit!”
In the first track “No Chainz,” we can hear samples of Exuma’s 1970 track “Paul Simon Nontooth” from the album Exuma II. From what I can gather by doing my own translations, Nochang talks about feeling like a slave, taking shots at Just Music – Swings in particular. “JM is the best slave farm of all time”, “don’t look for me, Moon Swings” are some examples. At one point I think he even calls them ungrateful bastards. He expresses frustration at not being able to achieve his own goals, likely from having to help other JM members with their music. “Liberation, freedom!” he cries.
In “Heated Boy,” we see a particularly unhinged Nochang referring to himself as a “psycho pretending to be a normal person” and telling us his personality is “ugly like a brat’s” but also saying things like “I’m so kind, but the curses towards me are so bad,” leading me to believe he saw some backlash from the incident mentioned earlier (which is utterly uncalled for, but let’s not go there).
“CHING CHANG CHONG” is where we really start to see the criticism and mockery of the hip hop scene come in – not only Korean hip hop, but western as well – particularly in the frequent use of the word “swag” throughout the song.
“I had an açaí berry smoothie for lunch, health swag”
“Look at me and think again, stupid, gene swag”
“Illionaire car swag”
We also hear a few digs at Melon, Korea’s primary music distributor – “cut the Melon root first, then you’ll see the real sap.”
It’s also important to note that gun is pronounced “chong” in Korean, and sap is pronounced like “swag.”
This energy continues in “WE ARE THE WORLD,” which is a personal favorite of mine. If Nochang seemed somewhat restrained in the last track, he goes all out in this one. This song is a prime example of the stream of consciousness style of lyrics I mentioned earlier. It’s a little bit all over the place, but here are some of the more memorable lyrics (translated by tumblr user swagirii):
“These bitches get famous for showing their butts when they don’t even have butts”
“Oh, if you’re mad, fight me in real life
2 o’ clock, in front of Mcdonalds
Oh, don’t get there early and sit there, acting like you didn’t get there early, were you hungry?”
Basically, these are his thoughts, and “fuck you” if you have a problem with that. The songs ends with a recital of Derek Walcott’s poem “Love After Love.”
You’ll be buried under the cemetery called ‘Great warriors who fought the Hip-hop War’, take my condolences”
Up next is “Floraguap,” another favorite and the song that introduced me to Nochang in the first place. In this song he cleverly compares the colors of the South Korean won banknotes to the seasons: “1,000 won is the color of the sky, 5,000 won is the color of cherry blossoms, 10,000 is a green color, 50,000 won is the color of fallen leaves. I can no longer wait for fall in my wallet, can’t wait for my assets to fall.” This song was pretty hard to translate but (thanks again to tumblr user swagirii) the outro goes like this:
“fuck off, everyone fuck off
Beenzino, The Quiett, Dok2,
It’s not your place to know how they spend their money
You guys are just morons, morons not even good enough to be GD’s dead toe skin
Aren’t you sad? You should change your lives
How long are you going to live like that?
You motherfucking dirty sons of bitches”
In “You,” we get to hear a little bit about Nochang’s breakup with his ex-girlfriend. This is somewhat evident in the way this song differs from the others, seeming a little more melancholy than the other tracks. But hey, he’s not supposed to discuss it in his songs, because he’s “hip-hop,” right? This song is about him wanting to talk about it, but feeling like he shouldn’t because he has a certain image to uphold. At one point in the song, he talks about how he threw his phone after reading her last text message, and ending up breaking it.
“I broke it without knowing at all that I had a lot of installment payments left
Thanks to you, I got to see iPhone 5s parts
You’ll never see my new iPhone.”
With that momentary crumbling of his “hip-hop front” out of the way, he comes back strong in “Drippin’ Swag.” As the album progresses, it seems as though there are two versions of Nochang fighting for the mic, and this is very evident on this track. While one version seems somewhat stable and controlled, the other is absolutely deranged, which makes for an interesting listening experience, to say the least. Hashtag, bipolar disorder. This song uses a sample from Kendrick Lamar’s 2013 “B.E.T. Cypher.”
Next up is “Trunt.” This song’s intro is a sample of Julia Child, a renowned American cook and author. This sample choice, much like the song, is probably one of the most “out there” on the album. “Hey, this is so weird, the beat is also strange, but you have to turn up” he says at the beginning, and repeats throughout. In the emptier parts of the song, his background ad libs help to add something extra, as well as an element of humor. I encourage you to stay with this song until the end, because there’s a beat switch in the last half – going into a more classic hip hop style both lyrically and sonically.
“See you soo” is all about the incident. Referring back to the HipHople interview, the song (in Korean) was originally going to be named 다음에 또봐요 (see you again) but after what happened, Nochang’s mentality was ruined, and the “요” was left off. It’s important to note that adding “요” to the end of a sentence makes it more polite. I guess the best way to convey this in the English title was to leave “soon” unfinished. This song was also meant to be a 4 minute long piano solo, and we can still hear a glimpse of what might have been in the beginning. But this moment of beauty becomes twisted and dark, much like the artist’s mindset. His voice takes on the raspy, desperate quality of a man at the end of his rope, and the song is raw in every way possible.
See, the darkness is leaking from the cracks. I cannot contain it. I cannot contain my life.” – Sylvia Plath
With the descent into madness complete, we’re left wondering what could possibly be next. The transition from See you soo to the final track “God” was breathtaking. These two songs are almost complete opposites, but in this way, they compliment each other. In “God,” Nochang speaks from the perspective of God – creating his world, discovering that there is light and beauty, but also “the swamp” which is a metaphor for hell. The song reads like Bible verses in the way he frequently says “and then” and “next chapter.” In comparison to the rest of the album he sounds utterly calm, maybe even a little hopeful. Again, the song changes, becoming representative of the artist’s mental state of being in hell. He pleads with everyone not to come, as he doesn’t want anyone else to suffer as he is suffering. He drives this point home through the nightmarish soundscape, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this verse from Matthew 13:42 “And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Once the album is complete, you realize that Nochang has taken us on a journey from slave to God.
THE AFTERMATH & CLOSING THOUGHTS
As expected, MY NEW INSTAGRAM was released to incredibly mixed reviews. Some people praised it for its rawness and larger-than-life production, others simply asked “why are you doing this?” One review from the Rate Your Music website even referred to Nochang as having a “dangerously unstable mind” which is a bit harsh, but after listening to this album, you might find yourself agreeing. While that particular review frames it as a negative, I can’t help but see it as positive. MY NEW INSTAGRAM is a very personal album, and it’s very “here and now.” Not many people are comfortable enough to put something so vulnerable out there for the world to see, so I have to give credit where it’s due. With this album he’s proved that he’s not afraid to “go there” and speak about topics many would shy away from. He’s not afraid to shout, scream, or go off beat. He uses things like voice cracks to his advantage. Everything is a tool for his message – a weapon against fakeness and fronts that we see too much of in hip hop.
Through his exceptional production skills, Nochang has created an incredibly immersive listening experience, with moments of sparse beauty and lucidity that appear and disappear just as quickly. At times, the lyrics are completely at odds with the dreamy, fantasy-like beats. This juxtaposition is one very few can pull off, but he does it with ease. Why? Because that’s just who he is.
Was this album an influential one? We can’t be totally sure, though over the next several years we’ll start to see a rise in experimental, more avant-garde type beats in Korean hip hop. Since Nochang is well known and respected in the industry, I can’t help but think he deserves at least some credit for this. Also, it is my belief that MY NEW INSTAGRAM has the potential to possibly be regarded as a “classic” in future years due to its audacious nature and unfiltered realness.
Let me know what your thoughts were on this album.
Listen on Spotify.