If you’ve spent even a minute listening to Kpop, you’ve probably heard of Dean. His monumental EP, 130 Mood: TRBL, shook the industry upon its release and initiated a wave of collaborations that brought Dean firmly into the spotlight. But who is Dean and what has he actually done for the Kpop industry?
A little history
Before he was known as Dean, Kwon Hyuk was a songwriter. He was an innovator, a young prodigy who was writing Kpop hits by the age of eighteen with credits on EXO and VIXX tracks. He wrote under the name Deanfluenza, already cultivating what would be his persona for his debut.
In 2015, he began his foray into the spotlight with I’m Not Sorry, an all-English track featuring Eric Bellinger. However, Dean really gained fame in 2016 when he dropped 130 Mood: TRBL. His sound was unique and his voice had the kind of velvet overtones that made it soothing and seductive all at once. You could fall into every track like dream, each with a distinct feeling.
Chill hop as a movement
Dean pushed forward a movement, an emphasis on chill-sounding hip hop. He introduced the laid-back lounge vibe, playing into the aesthetics adopted by Zico in She’s a Baby and GroovyRoom in Sunday. “Chill hop” extends beyond auditory confines and encompasses the soft, comforting pastels and simplistic visuals.
Nothing is a better example of this than D (Half Moon). Yes, this song has wormed its way into the forefront thanks to Jungkook and determined ARMYs but it stood fabulously on its own. The song sounds like what taking a nap on a cold rainy day feels like and it has an MV to match.
Dean’s chill hop sound works because it’s easy listening for hip hop lovers. It gives you a sense of comfort but it also gives you a beat to sing to.
I adore Dean’s music. From the very first listen to Pour Up, I was hooked and I was already looking forward to 130 Mood: TRBL. The actual release of the EP definitely did not disappoint and I still can’t listen to D (Half Moon) without my eyes closing a little and my heart settling.
Dean is significant for me because I feel like from the moment he started writing music he was preparing himself for something huge. He crafted all these connections in the industry and built up this sound, this image for himself, so that the second he stepped out on the scene for himself, he already had all this hype behind him. His debut was destined for success and it amazes me to this day that he can continue to make incredible music with such a distinct sound and still make each new song sound innovative and different.
I suppose that’s because he draws from so many different sources. For instance, with Love featuring Syd, he draws pretty heavily from Brazilian style bossa nova and it works beautifully with their voices. Each one of his songs has a history but it also creates its own path and it’s that kind of balance that makes Dean such a success.