[Review] Tiger JK ends the Drunken Tiger name in fantastic style with “Mantra”

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 ‘Swagger’ is a now almost comically outdated term, especially when talking about Korean hip-hop, but it had that feel of the projection of confidence to it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.


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