It’s BTS’ J-Hope’s world, we’re all just living in it

Image from BigHit Music

Pandora immediately fеlt her angst melt away and her heart glow with warmth / It was hope that was kept in the innermost nook of the box.

These are the verses that appear on Hesiod’s ‘Work and Days’, the ancient Greek poem and myth that told of the cursed Pandora unleashing all the evils of the world onto mankind. They’re also the lines that open BTS rapper J-Hope’s debut album, “Jack in the Box”.

It’s a fitting metaphor, as the album documents J-Hope’s grappling with the opposite sides of his persona: the bright, sunny image he’s always assigned with by many in the fandom, and the artist lurking beneath — the one whose roots were in dancing on the streets of Gwangju, long before BTS were a household name.

If anything, ‘Jack in the Box’ is a testament to the imaginative, visceral power of music — that element of magic that transports you from this world into an entirely new one. It’s almost a wonder that this is J-Hope’s debut album, until you remember he’s got nearly a decade of experience under his belt working with the biggest band in the world.

It’s even more of a wonder when you remember he joined the group as a dancer, who eventually found his own place in hip-hop. Years later and he’s now developed his own distinct signature sound, usually characterized with a bright, pulsating rap flow accentuated with trap beats — close your eyes and you can almost see the neon glowing. The album’s lead single “MORE” is an early standout, an illustration of the tension between restraint and that constant insatiable need to keep creating, to drive even further into the unknown (a theme not unfamiliar to BTS’ discography), emphasized by J-Hope rasp, gravelly vocals backed by raw electric guitar riffs. And yet there’s an old-school charm that runs through the album too, particularly in “= Equal Sign”, which at certain times recalls early 2000s hip-hop.

J-Hope has always been a secret superpower behind some of BTS’ standout tracks, including the likes of “Dis-ease”, and “Outro: Ego”. And with a triple-threat talent of rapping, dancing, and choreographing, he’s always been epitome of a jack-of-all-trades talent. In his official debut solo showcase, he lets it all out, creating an entire world of his own. And what an absolute thrill to be let in for the ride.

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