They say there’s power in numbers, but the strength in Monsta X member Jooheon's newest solo work certainly challenges that notion. The rapper released his self-penned debut mixtape DWTD on Friday (August 31), along with the music video for the title track, “Red Carpet.”
Anyone who’s heard the Monsta X canon can instantly pick out Jooheon’s distinctive voice. It’s a confident tone that has both nasality and a more grounded grit. These poles balance each other out in a way that makes his raps sonically interesting as he modulates his voice through rapid-fire lyrics. It’s precisely this unique character in his voice that makes the story of DWTD come to life — a tale of a man falling in love.
Opening with the 9F-produced “Should I Do,” we jump instantly into Jooheon’s world. The dark track is supported by a hard bassline that's peppered with what almost sound like tongue clicks. Jooheon’s signature sound effects, from birdcalls to growls, are interspersed into his telling of how far he has come from his debut, despite all the naysayers who attempted to block his way. But what seems like a familiar rapper’s diss evolves into something more heartfelt — a peek into the pressure and difficulties of being an idol. In Korea, this term that is frequently associated with K-pop groups like Monsta X is often derogatory, as many say that idols aren’t true artists. Jooheon argues that idols work just as hard as other musicians, and shouldn’t be judged unfairly.
Standout track “Red Carpet” is an instant mood-lifter — a groovy ballad peppered with guitar strums and jazzy trumpeting. The R&B sensibilities of the song support the lyrics, in which the rapper praises the beauty and grace of a woman with whom he can’t help but fall in love with. The visual for “Red Carpet” is a perfect representation of Jooheon’s duality: playful and charming one minute, yet sultry and edgy the next.
The following “Kang Baek-ho,” produced by both Jooheon and Ye-Yo!, as well as “RUNWAY” produced by DAKSHOOD and featuring KillaGramz showcase the rapper’s signature spit, ablaze with passion and heavy, punchy beats. The EP rounds out with Ye-Yo!-produced “Manito,” slowing down the pace and flowing with a mix of original sounds, haunting double bass and dramatic wails of an electric guitar. In this ending button, Jooheon underscores his love for his craft, calling rapping, dancing and working in the studio his “manito,” or the supernatural power that he possesses within his spirit.