Album Review: "Seo Taiji and Boys II" (1993)

Seo Taiji and Boys II” was the highly anticipated follow-up album of the hip-hop trio Seo Taiji and Boys. The trio's second album was even more successful than their first, selling more than 2.2 million copies, making it one of the most successful albums in South Korea.

While promoting their second album, the group were banned from appearing on certain television programmes because they wore earrings, ripped jeans, and had dreadlocks, showcasing the massive divide between when K-pop originated and its powerhouse and forward-thinking in the fashion world today.

The album was originally released on 21 June, 1993, with a fifteenth anniversary edition with bonus tracks being released in 2007.

The album version we will be reviewing today will be the fifteenth anniversary edition.

A new, updated version of the opening intro number of “Yo! Taiji!” comes in at an increased fifty-one seconds this time around.

The second track on the album, “Anyhow Song” (also known by it’s Korean title of “Hayeoga”) marks a change in sound from the group’s debut single. Less focused on hip hop as a genre, Seo Taiji and Boys second breakthrough song combines elements of heavy metal along with traditional “gukak” (Korean traditional or folk music) sounds through the use of the Korean wind instrument “taepyeongso” (similar to a shawm or oboe).

The third track to feature on the album, “Our Own Memories”, is sometimes regarded as the first “fan song” in K-pop history. The song, which was written by group leader Seo Taiji, is a letter for the group’s fandom, stating his gratitude to those who have followed his musical career, announcing a love for his fans, and promising to spend an eternity with them (despite the group disbanding two years later).

The fourth track on “Seo Taiji and Boys II” is a somewhat controversial one. “Swamp of Death” tells the story of a drug addict and illicit drug use. For the time, and especially for a conservative country such as South Korea, music with lyrics discussing illicit drug use was almost unheard of, and not exactly socially acceptable.

If “Swamp of Death” gives you the feeling of listening to a Michael Jackson song, then you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. The song has often been cited as sounding similar to the King of Pop’s “Dangerous”, especially for its low vocal growl. And given that Seo Taiji is an avid fan of Michael Jackson, it comes as no surprise that the artist was a heavy influence on his work.

Even for those Hallyu fans who aren’t familiar with the work of K-pop’s first group, the following number might sound like something you’ve heard before. And that’s because there’s a chance you have. The fifth track to feature on the album is “To You”, which was featured in the 2013 K-drama series “Reply 1994”, where a remake of the song by Sung Si-kyung was used.

To You” is in the same vain as “Our Own Memories” - another song written by leader Seo Taiji for his fandom. In fact, Seo Taiji had a metal remake of the song appear on his solo album “Tai Ji” in 2000.

The sixth song from “Seo Taiji and Boys II” is “Who Am I”. Fast-paced. Up-tempo. Almost an instrumental? While “Who Am I” does feature vocals, it doesn’t seem to be the main focus of the song. It’s definitely a dance song, and sounds more akin to something you might hear at a club, or possibly in a videogame, if there’s a world where both of these things can live in harmony. “Who Am I” is difficult to explain, but great fun to listen to.

The seventh track on the album comes in the form of “Last Festival”. And it’s the last true “song” on the album, given that the eighth track is just an instrumental. Despite its Korean lyrics, the sound of “Last Festival” is very much something that feels like it could have been taken from any Western boy group’s repertoire for the 1990’s. It’s upbeat, slightly experimental, and a very feel-good song with its vibe.

The originally released album then finished up with an instrumental version of an earlier song. “Our Own Memories (Instrumental)” acts as the eighth and final track on the original release of “Seo Taiji and Boys II”.

When the album was re-released for its fifteenth anniversary, eight more tracks were added, many of which came from the ‘93 Last Festival. These included: “Opening (The Taiji Boys, ‘93 Last Festival)”, “Last Festival (‘93 Last Festival)”, “Who Am I (‘93 Last Festival)”, “Our Own Memories, Part 1 (‘93 Last Festival)”, and “Our Own Memories, Part 2 (‘93 Last Festival)”. The re-release also featured “‘93 Anyhow Song Remix (Hip Hop Ver.)”, “Swamp of Death (‘04 Zero Live)”, and “‘93 Anyhow Song (TV Edit)”.

Have you listened to Seo Taiji and Boys first comeback album, “Seo Taiji and Boys II”? We recommend it, especially if you’re wanting to make your way through the discography of a first generation K-pop group! 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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