Epik High are all too familiar with calling out their naysayers, and they know exactly how it should be done – cue 2014’s ‘Born Hater’, 2017’s ‘No Thanxxx’ and even ‘In Self-Defense’ from this year’s ‘Epik High Is Here 上, Part One’ as prime examples.
Keeping in the spirit of those predecessors, the veteran hip-hop trio – made up of Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz – continue to give their haters no face nor heed in their latest single ‘Face ID’, released in the lead up to their ‘Epik High Is Here 下, Part Two’ album. As expected, it’s strikingly different from the chill and introspective ‘Rain Song’ released in June, if the dirty synths and blood-curdling screech opening up the track are anything to go by.
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Just as how one would need to show their face when unlocking their mobile phone with the Face ID function, the song “celebrates people unlocking their ‘faces’ after two years of being faceless behind masks and lockdowns”, per a press statement. Aside from COVID-19 related measures, the song also references another kind of pandemic: the endless scourge of online trolls hiding behind the safety of their screens. “It is [also] a big ‘F you’ to those who attack others under the mask of anonymity, to the cowards who are only brave because they’ll never be face-to-face with their victims,” the trio added.
When it comes to these so-called “keyboard warriors”, the men of Epik High naturally mince no words as they wax lyrical against a moody, melodic bassline and consistent drum beat. On the true face of trolls, Tablo points out matter-of-factly: ”See, everybody gangsta until they’re face to face / Their guard is quick to get unlocked”. Mithra, on the other hand, prefers a more hands-on approach when it comes to them: ”If you have something to say, pull up / Look into my eyes and file a complaint / I’ve never seen anyone raise a fist once we’re face to face”.
First-time collaborators Giriboy, Sik-K – who’s currently serving in the military – and Justhis each hold their own on ‘Face ID’. Giriboy, in particular, puts out some pretty witty and snarky wordplay in his bars. He likens those who play the innocent card (“Cursing out everyone, then acting like you didn’t do a thing”) as “actors on the level of [Hospital Playlist star] Jo Jung-seok”, advising them instead to not “waste their talent”. “Good job documenting your jealousy,” he sardonically bites back.
Meanwhile Justhis turns the spotlight on himself instead, revealing in spitfire fashion that he “got two Face IDs ’cause [he] got two phones”; hinting that there’s two sides to every coin and every person. Sik-K then comes in as the glue that connects the verses together with his hypnotic, trance-like chorus, singing in his signature Auto-Tune drone: “To me half of y’all are nobody / And that nobody is you / I don’t wanna talk to you / It’d hurt my worth”.
The song rounds up on an eerily euphoric high in the resounding post-chorus, further visualised by the psychedelic and surrealistic graphic treatment in the accompanying music video. All the rappers – led by Tablo – then issue the hidden trolls a final warning and challenge: “If you got somethin’ to say / Don’t do it behind my back / Say it to my face.”
As the bassline’s tempo picks up, the band-backed tune begins to resemble a cross between Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ and the Ghostbusters theme song. The instrumental track is also worth a mention, as quintessential iPhone sound effects – unlocking the phone, typing and sending a message – peppered throughout the song can be heard much more clearly here.
Though ‘Face ID’ may seem a little more laid-back compared to the previous hater call-out tracks, this may also be an indication of how far Epik High has come in dealing with them. Secure in their individual and artistic identities, the trio – who recently celebrated their 18th year as a group – have no qualms about confidently staking their claim within the industry. “We trailblazers were born to cross the line,” Tablo asserts; and to the trolls who choose to cross their line – a moment of silence.