TOPP DOGG are the most anticipated rookie Hallyu groups. Since their debut in 2013, they have taken the Hallyu world by storm, and have finally released their first studio album “First Street” on 7th November 2016. The album builds on various genres without losing their typical hip-hop/rap vibes. It should also be mentioned that the release of this album saw the departure of Jenissi, bring TOPP DOGG down to a 9-member group. Whilst it is definitely a loss, the album in itself is a fantastic achievement. So I present to you the review of TOPP DOGG’s first studio album, “First Street”.
‘Perfume’ is a fantastic opening track. It brings you straight into the album with an R&B/Pop sound that is seemingly unlike TOPP DOGG. However, this is interluded with various rap loops supported by an electro-pop synth. This opening track is really interesting and is a great intro to the album. It has the right tone and eases you into the album without alienating you.
R&B is definitely the sound you get from this track. The sound is reminiscent of Block B’s ‘Toy’, which is a sound that is so appealing and calming. The track fits the title for sure, and melancholic and bittersweet. Unlike like TOPP DOGG’s previous releases, the rap is not too heavy or hard-hitting which, if it were, would be very jarring and bring down this track: overall, it’s a very cohesive track that brings vocals and rap-lines together seamlessly.
This track is an absolute winner! The jazz/funk-blues feel to this track is so different to what TOPP DOGG have done previously. The pipe-organ, saxophones, and brass really support the sound and make ‘Sunshine’ such an interesting track to listen to. This track makes me nostalgic of late 90’s light rap tracks that were easing rap into the mainstream audiences: it’s fun, funky, and so lovely to listen to!
Things take a different turn with ‘Monologue’ which is a new jack swing-influenced track which brings a very different feel to this track. Like ‘Rainy Day’, the rap lines don’t stunt the track and fit with the overall tone of the track, much like Shinee’s recent ‘1+1’. If you’re looking for something a bit different, then this track is for you!
‘Flower’ returns back to more synth-heavy sound, an urban/hip-hop track that we might more readily identify with TOPP DOGG’s own natural sound. This track is so such a good listen and is not as overwhelming as one might expect. Instead, the more urban elements of ‘Flower’ ironically give it a sense of sweetness that helps root the hip-hop elements of the track. This track is a definite winner!
Just as you think that ‘Blind’ will be a heavy hip-hop track, opening with a repetitive sample sound of a child asking ‘Have you ever been bullied?’, the track becomes a light electro-dance/drum and bass track that again brings the vocals and rap-lines together. I found this track rather difficult to listen to, but if you like more electronic sound, then ‘Blind’ is a good compromise.
Things really slow down with ‘Good Morning’ which is a mid-tempo light pop track that is bubbly and sweet. Arguably, given that TOPP DOGG have marketed themselves as a die-hard hip-hop/electronic band, this track seems out of their comfort. They have definitely good job and a nice listen, but I’m not sure that this track really fits their overall image.
8.Emotion (Glitch mix)
‘Emotion’ is a ‘glitch mix’ of the track released from their “The Beat” EP. This mix is quite interesting and quite different from the original track which I definitely prefer. Not sure whether the mix really added anything substantial to the track, but it was an interesting listen…!
Overall, TOPP DOGG have released a solid first album. One thing that does seem lacking, however, is the presence of a really heavy hip-hop/rap track like previous releases such as ‘Arario’ and ‘The Beat’, both of which really characterize TOPP DOGG’s unique image. However, this album shows the group’s attempt to break out of their comfort zone and try something different which is definitely commendable. Overall, this album is a winner and I’d definitely recommend having a listen, even if it’s only a few tracks that catch your interest.
Review written by Tariq