Korean rapper Jonathan Park, better known by his moniker Dumbfoundead, has a unique presence in the hip-hop scene due to his immigrant perspective provided in his music. Park has received much praise in the past from critics and fans alike for his charismatic personality and flow as well as his creative approach to writing lyrics that are simultaneously relatable and alien. With four full studio albums already filling out his discography, it seems that Park is ready to make some changes in his approach to the genre as evident on his most recently released EP “Rocket Man” that dropped on Dec. 13. Unfortunately, these changes do not come across as an innovative or impressive departure from Park’s previous work. Instead this EP feels more like a half-baked demo tape trying to sell the concept of Park’s breakout into the mainstream influenced sound.
While certain aspects of each cut on this 6 track EP do come across as interesting and enjoyable, the majority of them are too bogged down by the negative aspects to be worthy of any higher praise. The intro track “Rocket Man” seems almost like a template for the consistent issues Park has on this EP with songwriting, lack of focus and underwhelming instrumentals compared to his last album “We Might Die.” The instrumental on “Rocket Man” has only two base components: arcade style electronic synths and a very basic and generic trap drum bassline that never lets up over the course of the entire three-minute track. The lyrics are meant to portray a “Rocket Man” character inspired by the controversy surrounding North Korea’s tension with the United States and Donald Trump’s role in that tension. However, nothing about the meat of these verses really alludes to that. Instead, this character is essentially just bragging about how rich he is and the opulent lifestyle that he is living without regard for those below him. While this may be vaguely attributed to the dictatorship of North Korea, it could also be used to make commentary on that one snobby friend with rich parents that everybody has. Like a horoscope, it is too general to actually provide any meaningful commentary on the issue. The cut features a very lazily inserted sound clip of a Donald Trump speech on the issue at the halfway point of the song over the same repetitive beat as if that is suddenly supposed to put the previous lyrics into perspective.
Another cut that suffers heavily from this lack of focus is the penultimate track “Eleven.” While the majority of tracks on this EP at least subtly refer to some larger social issue, “Eleven” is essentially just Park using one verse to brag about his current drug habits and the other verse to flip the script and speculate how this lifestyle is affecting him negatively. This could have been a decent basis to form a meaningful message, especially in light of the current modern hip-hop trend of bragging about drug abuse and the unfortunate situations that lifestyle can lead to (think: Lil Peep). However, this more introspective voice of Park’s conscience is only present for a few lines on the second verse before giving way to Park glorifying it again saying he never wants the feeling to end.
The only well-rounded and majorly enjoyable cut on this EP, even though its theme makes no sense for the record, is “Kill Me” which is a slower, more thought out and lighthearted track where Park raps about his relationship with this girl that drives him insane in the best possible way. The instrumental is funky and smooth with lots of subtle violin melodies, an easygoing and syrupy bass and snare drum pattern as well as cheesily romantic funk synths. The writing here, while still a little corny at times, is clearly more developed than the rest of the album and is not as gratingly repetitive.
Jonathan Park is known for being unique, but with this shift in sound to a more conventional and dumbed down style that uniqueness seems to be wearing a bit thin. No doubt this EP will appeal to newer fans of Park who are not accustomed to his old work or those who enjoy the mainstream rappers that have influenced this change in his style. However, regardless of personal taste, in the context of the rest of his discography, “Rocket Man” represents a relatively mediocre quality and uninspired project when compared to Park’s creativity in the past.