Review: Yaeji – What We Drew

Korean-American DJ and producer Yaeji has released her highly anticipated debut mixtape What We Drew.

Born Kathy Yaeji Lee, Yaeji spent her time growing up scuttling between America and South Korea, eventually ending up in New York. She began DJing at University in  America, playing her first set on the university’s radio station and after graduation continued to pursue a career in music.

The release of new Yaeji music has been in short bursts since her first single New York ’93 released in 2016. She since released two eps in 2017 (Yaeji and EP2) both gaining mass attention within the house community. After the success of her two EPs, Yaeji seemed to focus more on remixes and features, collaborating with the likes of Charli XCX and Robyn. Yet since then fans have suffered a deficiency of Yaeji’s original releases, until she announced the released of her debut full length mix tape What We Drew.

What We Drew appears to have a literal meaning. Compared to Yaeji’s other releases, it is clear to see the amount of collaboration that has gone into the album. Yet, despite this Yaeji has made it clear that she self-produced all tracks which keeps the individuality and intimate feeling that many fans of Yaeji’s admire.

The environments that Yaeji has grown up in are visible within her music. The obvious point being the switch between the use of the English and Korean language within her lyrics. But the feel of the the South Korean and American house and techno scene also creates a divide in her music, with Seoul’s underground DJing scene having more of an effect on her music than anything else.

Yaeji is well known for her soft house sound, with influences of hip-hop always present, but she seems to have delved deeper into the relationship of house/techno and hip-hop and how they can work together. On tracks like Money Can’t Buy featuring New York based artist Nappy Nanny, it is hard to ignore the hip-hop elements, but in true Yaeji style she still projects her individuality within the track. There is a clear contrast between Yaeji’s soft spoken-rap in Korean and Nappy Nanny’s harsh English rap which is accompanied by an equally disjointed beat that makes the track feel whole.

Even with a heavier focus on the influence of hip-hop, Yaeji’s signature sound of light and playful synths accompanied by her comforting voice is still a major player on the mixtape, especially with title track What We Drew and the first single to be released off of the album, Waking up down.

When listening to the mixtape for the first time one track in particular seemed to jump out. In the Mirror, is a track which wouldn’t normally be associated with a Yaeji track. As soon as it starts, a listener is struck by a deep bass, followed by a brassy synthesiser creating a jolting feeling, even the soft airy tone of Yaeji’s previous raps seem to have gotten replaced by a deep declaration. The track although surprising, showcased the range of Yaeji’s music and amplified the experimental feel of the mixtape.

It is safe to say that What We Drew is Yaeji’s most impressive release to date, the originality and the mix of a variety of genres is refreshing and the intimacy of the mixtape makes a listener feel like part of a community, even if listening by themselves.

Listen to What We Drew here:

By Abbie Aitken

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