Epik High Throughout The Years: 15 Moments That Shaped Their Incredible Journey
Time flies so fast, and yet every single minute counts. 15 years ago, an alternative hip-hop trio by the name of Epik High made their official debut on October 23, 2003. As the years passed by, their soulful music spoke to us in many ways by bringing so much inspiration, influence, and healing to the world.
As we constantly marvel at their musical talent, wits, and sense of humor, we’re paying tribute to this epic group by tracing some of the most memorable moments during their amazing career for over a decade. In celebration of their 15th anniversary, here are 15 key elements from Epik High’s momentous journey.
1. Humble beginnings: “Map Of The Human Soul”
Originally formed in 2001 as part of the underground hip hop scene, Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz rose with the relatively unknown genre and released their first album “Map Of The Human Soul” in 2003. From the start, the group has been known for their lyrically complex music which tackles all sorts of issues, be it social, religious, or political. Even love and heartache are illustrated through their songs in the most heartwrenching way. In addition to the previous topics, the two rappers also grace us with an introspection piece every now and then; such is the case of “Go,” the very first song on their debut album. (Read the lyrics here)
2. Mainstream success and rising popularity: “Fly”
Serving as the title track for “Swan Songs,” Epik High’s third album, “Fly” had tremendous success. On top of topping domestic charts, garnering a total of five music show wins, and even featuring on the soundtracks for “FIFA 07” and “Pump It Up,” the song also represents a bundle of hope to its listeners. The song urges people to keep believing in their dreams no matter how many hurdles they face along the way. Catch an early performance of the song on “Music Core“:
3. Hip-hop’s early pioneers: major award achievements
Although Korean hip-hop has been around since the ’90s, Epik High is one of the few acts that catapulted the genre into the mainstream scene. Subsequently, their impact did not go unnoticed. In fact, their music garnered a notable amount of major award wins, where they won every hip-hop-based nomination on the Golden Disk Awards, and earned five hip-hop-based wins on Mnet Asian Music Awards on top of snatching the “Album Of The Year” award with their fourth album “Remapping The Human Soul.” Their most recent award to date is Song of the Year – October, which they received at the Gaon Chart Music Awards for their nominated work “Love Story” featuring IU. (1:36:14-1:36:50)
4. Timeless collaborations: “Umbrella”
Every Epik High collaboration is a masterpiece without exception, and singling out only one of them almost feels like a sin. That being said, our pick for this segment is a classic which is none other than “Umbrella” featuring Younha. The song depicts a beautiful metaphor of how the presence of one’s significant other in their lives equals to an umbrella shielding them from the pouring rain.
5. The birth of Epik High’s independent label: Map The Soul
Albeit short-lived, the record label welcomed a short lineup of artists such as MYK and Dok2. Furthermore, Epik High released a book album entitled “魂: Map The Soul” which served as a special project instead of the group’s official sixth album. The project’s content included the album creation process in detail. Their first single from the release is a song of the same name. Listen to the worldwide version down below!
6. Lyrical mastership: “Run”
As mentioned before, another amazing trait of Epik High’s is the profound beauty behind their distinctive lyrics. Choosing a powerful lyrical example is just as hard as naming a favorite song, but we still managed to take a pick. We’ve all felt the urge to run away at some point in our lives and leave everything behind, but the trio conveyed that feeling with a rather positive touch via the following verses from “Run.”
7. Outstanding live performances: “Don’t Hate Me”
One of the many things Epik High is known for is their unique stage presence. During this legendary stage at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz brilliantly rocked villainous outfits which borrowed from some of the horror cosplays that were featured on the song’s MV. Plus, this performance further emphasized the song’s bold statement, since it’s been dedicated to both Epik High’s fans and anti-fans.
8. Epik High’s first U.S. festival: “K-pop Night Out” at South by Southwest (SXSW)
Three years ago, the group joined the massive lineup of SXSW’s musical acts in Austin, Texas. In an energetic atmosphere, they hyped the crowd as they played a versatile set list which included some of their previous hits. Catch this fancam below where Epik High’s blasting energy can be literally felt throughout this breathtaking performance of “Born Hater!”
9. First major Korean act invite: playing Coachella
Another dream came true for Epik High when they were invited to perform at Coachella, an immensely popular music and arts festival set in California. The three artists lit up the valley and impressed their audience by showcasing their usual groove while performing a set to remember to both their old and new fans. Here is a fun snippet of this historical musical moment!
— KCON USA (@kconusa) April 17, 2016
10. The creation of something epic: “We’ve Done Something Wonderful”
After a three-year hiatus, the group’s ninth and latest full-length album hit home immediately upon its release. The entire tracklist invites us to take a step into Epik High’s world and contemplate the vivid messages encrypted in their overwhelming lyrics that contain a magnitude that only amplifies with every listen.
The album was a chart success both domestically and internationally, and it featured a lot of popular Korean acts. One of Epik High’s recurring featured artists is singer Lee Hi, who lent her melodious voice to “Here Come The Regrets” and comforted our hearts alongside Tablo and Mithra with every performed line.
11. Epik High’s loyal companions: High Skool
As they went through thick and thin, these three individuals shared many valuable memories throughout the years with their fans who accompanied them on their extraordinary musical path. Some of the most heartwarming moments that highlight their rock-solid bond are the goosebumps-worthy interactions between Epik High and High Skool during live performances. See for yourselves down below!
12. Epik High’s concert series: “Now Playing”
If you’re not familiar with this specific ritual, you are definitely missing out! Since 2015, the dynamic trio has been filming hilarious promotional parodies of famous blockbuster movies that serve as a vital component of their scheduled concerts. After two successful editions, the 2018 “Now Playing” concert series took place last summer. Here is an intriguing sneak peak of what an Epik High concert promotion looks like!
13. Tablo: the author
Tablo is a man of many talents: a rapper, producer, radio DJ, and author. Following the release of a collection of short stories entitled “Pieces Of You,” the devoted writer published yet another captivating work. His second book contains a collection of notes the host used to share with his listeners on “Tablo’s Dreaming Radio,” which he labeled “BloNotes,” with the singular form of the word serving as the book’s title.
Listen to Tablo’s commentary to learn more about the book’s content!
14. Mithra Jin: the vocalist
We all know Mithra Jin as an established rapper, songwriter, and lyricist. However, none of us would have guessed that there is a dormant singer within our favorite poet! On the set of “The King Of Mask Singer,” he made his solo debut as a vocalist who charmed both the panelists and the cheering crowd with his reprise of YB’s “After Sending You Away.”
Just like a gentle wave, watch Mithra’s soothing performance on the variety show!
15. DJ Tukutz: the variety king
There is no denying that DJ Tukutz is the mastermind behind the vast majority of Epik High’s produced discography. However, the birth of a new moniker made the ultimate entertainer out of the producer.
It all started when a listener called the FM radio show “Cultwo Show” and asked “Who is Epik High’s Sukutz?” Following the funny incident, DJ Tukutz contacted the radio show saying that he would change his stage name to DJ Sukutz for the rest of July if “Epik High concert” topped the realtime search rankings. When his condition was fulfilled, he had no choice but to keep his promise as well, thus officially becoming DJ Sukutz and playing in concerts under the new nickname for nearly a month.
In Tablo’s words, each member makes the 1/3 of Epik High. One thing is for sure, we’re definitely looking forward to witnessing many more epic moments from this phenomenal group! Happy 15th anniversary Epik High and High Skool!
What is your favorite memory as an Epik High fan? Let us know in the comments below!
Esmee L. is a Moroccan lively dreamer, writer, and Hallyu enthusiast.