Yaeji's 'WHAT WE DREW' | A Reinvention of House Music for Post-Genre Culture
Evan Dale // April 6, 2020
Sensory immersion has always seemed to be the result if not the underlying goal of Yaeji’s every track and project. Building on a duo of EP’s since 2017, the producer whose textures float over everything from house to trap to hip-hop, is here with her largest and likewise rawest exploration to date. New mixtape, WHAT WE DREW sources from the same root duality and bilingual foundation of her past work, offering her not only a musically, but also a linguistically and subsequently a thoughtfully differentiated artistic sphere. But even considering her foundations, something about the mixtape at large feels altogether more complete, less meandering, and ultimately refined in comparison with her groundwork to this point.
For the Korean American DJ, residing in Brooklyn with near roots in Seoul, refining a sound embedded in such a diverse composite is no small feat. If nothing else, it requires the invention of a new aesthetic certainly sourced on pillars of the past, but different as a merged whole. WHAT WE DREW is a master class on just the sound that Yaeji has been working towards for years. But understanding it is really reliant on an understanding of her road. After all, WHAT WE DREW is a masterful soundscape, and such drawings take time and layers.
Shattering expectations of what house music’s offspring would come to be in a particularly global multicultural future, Yaeji’s 2017 self-titled debut project was spearheaded by Guap. A house beat with a hypnotizing hip-hop adjacent thematic sample echoed by the ghostly, spoon-fed mantras of Yaeji herself, Guap became a blueprint of sorts for some of Yeaji’s most signature career tracks: One More, after that.
By the time EP2 rolled around with its leading single, drink i’m sippin on, Yaeji was unleashing newfound tricks. drink i’m sippin on was a prideful blend of her roots, diving into a slow-rolled American hip-hop cadence overtop a trap beat with a hook in Korean. It was also a microcosm of just how blissfully unique she is to every musical lane she sources from. With it, also came passionfruit– a take on Drake’s international hit – that cemented her affinity for hip-hop and R&B’s pop-heavy directions, and her knack at making them very much her own.
Even her most established hits with their most obvious inspirations have been a remaking of what those inspirations were. raingurl is her most classically European house exploration – also her biggest hit – and yet, it shines as a pinnacle of what makes Yaeji so different. As the vocal sample and the producer of the entire composition, she’s a revelation.
Like the Brooklyn-Seoul hip-hop house counterpoint to KAYTRANADA’s Montreal-Port-au-Prince tropical house, Yaeji is as unique as they come. And like KAYTRANADA, who also sources his range in his diversity, Yaeji is coming to be more sought after by her lyrical and vocal contemporaries. Further still, she can add her own voice into the mix.
MONEY CAN’T BUY is both WHAT WE DREW’s first credited feature, and also its most vibrantly expressive track. Fit with a guest verse from Bay-Area up-and-coming rapper, Nappy Nina, Yaeji drops the most addicting hook of 2020. With a bass-heavy beat marked with playful synth breakdowns that allude to the ever-present bounce of Yaeji’s lighthearted demeanor, MONEY CAN’T BUY is, at the end of the day, just another strive to make her listeners dance. And there’s no doubt it succeeds. But where it succeeds as an anthemic track to move to, it also succeeds as a more complex social dialogue on the long merging lanes of electronica and hip-hop, as well as a post-genre thesis on the possibilities of myriad cultural influence.
WHAT WE DREW is a confirmation that Yaeji’s many lanes are as uniquely bent and well-traveled as ever. She is an image – perhaps the most notable musical image during an unplanned, but particularly trying time for those of Asian American heritage – of the importance, beauty, and coalescing mosaic of broad cultural influence. She continues to source, destroy, blend, and invent, and proves that with every second of WHAT WE DREW, music is as dynamic and unpredictable as ever. Forever influencing the future of house, trap, hip-hop, and their many possible conglomerate directions of the future, Yaeji with WHAT WE DREW, is as key socially as she is to music culture.