Tiger JK has returned for one final comeback as Drunken Tiger, which got off on an excellent note thanks to the pre-release single “Yet“. That release would’ve been hard to top for me, but after hearing “Mantra“, thankfully the question of which I like better is indeed relevant.
On my initial listen I compared it to a Drunken Tiger classic in “Is Ack Hezay?“, not because they sounded similar at all, but because they had the same anthemic vibe. ‘Swagger’ is a now almost comically outdated term, especially when talking about Korean hip-hop, but it had that feel of the projection of confidence to it
The Loptimist instrumental is a fantastic foundation to build on thanks to the old-school feel that was helped along by the boom-bap beat and brass-heavy interjections. But it’s the execution by Tiger JK that takes this to the next level. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’ve always been a big fan of Tiger’s unique reggae-esque flow, because as many seem to fit into one mold or another, he’s instantly recognizable and immediately puts his own stamp on things. I understand those who that delivery can be grating, but he absolutely goes off on this with some of his best work in a minute.
While everything that surrounds it is enough to make “Mantra” a quality release, the chorus takes it to the next level. Despite mostly being rapped, it’s clearly differentiated from the verses thanks to a consistent refrain that’s assisted by having a catchy rhythm that makes it something to look forward to, and has impactful moments with the call-and-response “WHAT” and “HO” shouts woven in seamlessly.
I suppose if the Drunken Tiger name has to be retired at least a head-nodding anthem for “Mantra” is a hell of a way to go out. It’s relatively mainstream-friendly, so hopefully it does well commercially as well. But whatever the case may be on that front, it’s one of my favorite Korean hip-hop tracks of the year.