Album Review: "Seo Taiji and Boys" (1992)

“Seo Taiji and Boys” was the debut album of the hip-hop trio of the same name who debuted K-pop to both South Korea and the world. The album is one of the most successful in South Korea, having sold more than 1.8 million copies, and brought the trio major successes which would follow through their subsequent albums.

Easily the single most famous song on the entire album in “Nan Arayo” (“I Know”), the song that famously earned the group last place on an MBC talent show, but showcased the future of South Korean music to the public.

The album was originally released on 23 March, 1992, with a fifteenth anniversary edition with bonus tracks being released in 2007.

Unfortunately, the versions of the album released in international territories does not feature track nine, or therefore the remix on track thirteen - “Rock ‘n Roll Dance” - due to licensing issues related with sampling AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. However, since the invention of YouTube and the progress made on the Internet since the early 1990’s, this song can very easily be found by international fans, and we have therefore included it in this review. Please note: for international fans outside of South Korea, “Rock ‘n Roll Dance” is still not available on Spotify.

The first track on the album, “Yo! Taiji!” opens up every single one of the group’s four albums. The number is short, coming in at just thirty-eight seconds, and acts as an intro song as many K-pop albums now currently feature.

The second track on the album, “I Know - Club Mix”, should be well-known and well-recognisable by a majority of K-pop fans. This is the song that essentially started K-pop as a whole thirty years ago. Featuring a memorable chorus and the fusion genre of swingbeat, the lyrics of the song deal with the problems of South Korean society at the time.

“I Know” went on to win the Main Award (Bonsang) at the Golden Disc Awards, the Best Popular Song at the MBC Gayo Daejejeon, and the Grand Prize (Daesang) at the Seoul Music Awards.

You, In the Fantasy” features as the third track on the album, and surprisingly samples a voice clip of Bart Simpson. The dance track contained lyrics regarding questioning your preconceived reality, foreshdowing the lyrics of many of the group’s future most successful and controversial tracks to come in the future.

The fourth track on the album, “In the Time Spent With You”, could very easily be described as the “mandatory ballad” of the album. This track showcases to an audience, however, the duality of the group - they don’t just rap about the downfall of the nation and societal collapse, but also sing about reminiscing about a lover and the feeling you get being with the one you love.

As the Night Goes On” - the album’s fifth track - could also be seen as a ballad, but in a more up-tempo vibe. It once again, like the previous song, showcases the duality of the group, and their abilities in singing and not just rapping. The song could definitely be seen as more beautiful than other tracks on the album.

Next up comes “My Everything - Live Mix”. As the first live mix on the album, it starts off by featuring the sounds of screaming fans before it launches into a very synth-pop beat that would have sounded dated even for its time to Western audiences.. This track comes as a personal favourite from the group’s first album.

The seventh track to appear on the album, “Now”, is yet another ballad. This showcase of so many ballads in a row shows that while the main singles from the album may have been hip-hop heavy, it was not necessarily the only side of the group during these early days.

K-pop’s first foray into the English language is the next song to come up - “Blind Love - English Version”. The song moves away from the ballads of the previous tracks, bringing back in the hip-hop and rap that the group was so well-known for. Despite the song was still a love song, although different from what you might expect given its sound.

The ninth track from the album is “Rock ‘n Roll Dance (‘92 Heavy Mix)”. Unfortunately for international fans, this song was not available on the albums they purchased due to licensing issues related to the song sampling from AC/DC.

While it may not have been available on the album, however, it is accessible to international audience through mediums such as YouTube. Another hip-hop and rap number, it is rather a disappointment that this track was kept from the group’s growing international fanbase in those early days. It is certainly a memorable listen.

The tenth song to make an appearance on the album marked the end of the original album as it was released in 1992. “Missing” is another short number, acting much like “Yo! Taiji!” at the beginning of the album, or like an outro you might see on K-pop albums of the current age.

When the album was re-released for its fifteenth anniversary, five more tracks were added: a techno-inspired remix in “You, In the Fantasy, Pt. 3 - Techno Taiji Mix”; an extended number in “As the Night Goes On - Extended Dance Mix”; “Rock ‘n Roll Dance (Live & Techno Mix)”, which was not made available to international audiences; a live recording in the track “I Know - ‘04 Zero [Live]”; and the television recording that made the group so famous to begin with in “I Know - ‘92 TV Edit”.

Overall, the album “Seo Taiji and Boys” makes for invaluable listening to K-pop fans, both to see where K-pop has come from since it’s initial days, and to be able to say that you’ve listened to what could easily be argued to be K-pop as a genre’s very first album.

Have you listened to Seo Taiji and Boys eponymous debut album? We recommend it! Give it a listen as let us know what you think by commenting on our socials @KpopWise.

Ford Carter

Ford Carter is an online blogger studying journalism who's hundreds of articles across half a dozen fansites from the music and television industries have now been read more than 300,000 times. From his home in regional Australia, you'll often find him binging kdramas or rewatching old editions of the Eurovision Song Contest.

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