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About Epik High
South Korean hip-hop group Epik High rose from the rap underground at the turn of the 21st century, offering substance and a thoughtful alternative to the K-pop mainstream with sample-heavy production and dense bilingual rhymes. After their 2003 debut, Map of the Human Soul, the trio amassed a devoted following over the course of a decade, breaking into the mainstream with their chart-topping 2007 LP, Remapping the Human Soul, and enlisting high-profile international support for their ambitious 2009 double album, [e]. They remained in the Top 10 with each subsequent release, debuting on the U.S. charts with 2012's 99. In 2016, they became the first major South Korean artists ever to play Coachella.
Formed in 2001 by overseas-educated frontman Tablo (born Lee Sun-Woong, aka Daniel Armand Lee, on July 22, 1980), fellow emcee Mithra Jin (born Choi Jin on January 6, 1983), and DJ Tukutz (born Kim Jeong-Shik on November 19, 1981), Epik High worked the Seoul underground up until the release of their 2003 debut album, Map of the Human Soul. Singles from their next two full-lengths helped them build a wider audience and 2004's High Society and 2005's Swan Songs were big enough hits to make the members of Epik High household names in Korea. They released their fourth album, Remapping the Human Soul, in 2007. The set proved controversial upon release -- lyrical content touched upon typically taboo Korean-pop topics like sex, religion, and politics -- but that only aided its success. Remapping topped the charts and became their highest-selling effort. The heady concept album Pieces, Part One arrived a year later, outdone in ambition by their experimental 2009 double album [e]. Split into two parts, [e]motion and [e]nergy, the collection featured collaborations with MYK, Kero One, Dumbfoundead, and Rakaa from Dilated Peoples.
That year, Tukutz took a break from the group to enlist in his mandatory military service. In his absence, Tablo and Mithra issued Epilogue, a collection of previously unreleased tracks. Mithra soon enlisted for his service and Epik High was put on hold. While his bandmates were training, Tablo signed with YG Entertainment and released solo album Fever's End.
In 2012, the trio re-formed and made their comeback under YG. Their seventh album, 99, debuted at number two in Korea and marked their first appearance on the U.S. World Albums chart. They soon followed with 2014's Shoebox, which topped the Billboard World chart. In addition to single "Born Hater," the album also featured appearances by Taeyang, Jay Park, and a team of other Korean rappers. Riding their success on the U.S. charts, the trio performed at SXSW and Coachella. Ninth album We've Done Something Wonderful arrived in 2017. The Top 10 hit was their last with YG; they parted ways with the label a year later before embarking on an international tour.
While on the road, Epik High signed with American label William Morris Endeavor, releasing the 2019 EP Sleepless in ____ a month later. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
- Seoul, South Korea
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