Ending its staggering 13-year hiatus, the legendary Korean hip-hop group Uptown broke their silence with a new album.
Formed in 1997, Uptown originally consisted of four members — Chris Jung, Carlos Galvan, Steve Kim and the renowned female rapper Tasha Reid, widely known as Yoon Mi-rae. The group garnered wide public acclaim with hits like "Back to Me" (1997) and "You Inside Me" (1997).
The group faced its share of challenges, including lineup changes and a disbandment in 2000 due to drug charges against Jung, Galvan and Kim. As Reid departed to pursue a solo career, the group staged a comeback in 2006 with a new member, Jessica Ho, now known as Jessi.
After more than a decade, Uptown returned with a revamped lineup featuring original member Jung, alongside singer Ru.B and rapper Babylon. Their latest release, "Back II Analogue," hit the public on Friday.
During an interview at the group's agency, t cask ent, located in Gangnam District, Seoul, Monday, the three members shared their excitement and talked about the pressure of reintroducing Uptown to old and new generations.
Jung, the group's original member and main producer, expressed a mix of nerves and pride at being back in the spotlight.
"I'm nervous about how I'll be evaluated. But at the same time, I'm also proud to be able to continue working at this age," the 55-year-old said.
Newcomers Ru.B and Babylon share the nerve-wracking sentiment. Ru.B, formerly a vocalist of the K-pop girl group Spica, acknowledged the pressure of joining a group with such a rich history.
"I grew up listening to Uptown's music since I was very young and to be honest, joining the group carries a tremendous weight for me. I'm putting in daily effort to ensure I don't diminish the group's esteemed reputation," Ru.B said.
Babylon, a well-regarded R&B singer-songwriter in the local hip-hop scene, expressed his ambition to contribute to Uptown's legacy and cultivate a culture that appreciates classic hip-hop music.
"K-pop, along with Korean idols, garners more attention than any other Korean music genre. However, delving into the roots of Korean music, I discovered the dedicated efforts of Uptown and other musical pioneers. I've always harbored a desire to contribute to the music scene, showcasing my reverence for esteemed seniors. With this album, my aim is to shout out that deep respect for them," Babylon said.
Uptown's latest album, "Back II Analogue," is curated by Jung from the group's hit songs and features tracks crafted without heavy reliance on digital sounds.
"We aim to showcase quality Black music. Rather than recreating the glory of the past, I hope that our musical identity, which pursues the original R&B, hip-hop and soul genres, will be maintained," Jung said, shedding light on the group's musical direction.
Addressing the question of whether a Korean band's interpretation of Black music will appeal to global audiences, Jung emphasized, "When I create music, I don't consider my nationality or race. My primary focus is on how my hip-hop music is evaluated. Black music isn't exclusive to a specific race; it's just a genre. I don't believe it differs simply because it originates from Koreans."
He added confidently, "Music produced in Korea is now embraced overseas, particularly with the rise of K-pop. I believe our nation's music has grown more competitive and is on par with music from any other country."