Far East Movement

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Identity Review

by Neil Z. Yeung

After four years of silence, Far East Movement return with their fifth LP, Identity. Now a trio, the electronic-rap crew pleasantly surprise with this mature and transformative effort that succeeds in honoring their roots by bridging the gap between their Asian and American cultures. Everyone's invited to this party. K-pop stars collide with American rappers, pop hooks melt into sparkling electronic atmospherics, and the result is nothing but bright and optimistic. While recording in both Asia and Los Angeles, the group -- Kev Nish, Prohgress, and DJ Virman -- enlisted an eye-catching team of collaborators from around the globe, creating a truly communal and familial feel on Identity. The natural chemistry is felt on each track, which peppers inspired guest production and vocals atop Far East Movement's own rapping and songwriting. Each guest vocalist lends a different vibe to each track, whether through uplifting joy on the Yoon Mirae-assisted ode to immigrants, "Fighter"; exuberant celebration on the Marshmello/Tinashe/Chanyeol (EXO) triple-threat "Freal Luv"; or irresistible energy on "Don't Speak," a bass-popping K-pop anthem starring Girls' Generation's Tiffany. Korean-American rapper Jay Park -- aided by slick MNEK production -- seduces on the naughty "SXWME," while Soulja Boy and Korean rapper Loco trade filthy verses on the cavernous pogo-twitching "Double Dip." Even Macy Gray makes an appearance on "Forever Survivor," a spacious anthem that respectfully allows her raspy voice to take center stage. There's so much going on as Identity progresses, yet it all works. The combinations feel natural, which is a credit to Far East Movement and their producer pals (Norwegian EDM producer Autolaser makes the most appearances, in addition to others like No Riddim, King Chain, and MKNNA). One standout on an album full of peaks is the gorgeous "Umbrella," which features Sistar's Hyolyn and Taiwanese EDM producer Gill Chang. The song sparkles, sounding like a typical chart-topping Asian ballad but infused with a lush beat that elevates it beyond the saccharine. For those expecting more rides on that G6, this may sound like a completely different group (the closest dirty bass to be found is the raunchy Big K.R.I.T. joint "FBG$"). However, that change in their sound is essential: they've grown, found an authentic voice, and delivered a collection that is truly a cross-cultural effort as their moniker implies. Compared to the strobe-blasted jams of Dirty Bass and Free Wired, this is night and day. Identity opens the club doors after the party has ended, bathing listeners in the warmth of the sunrise and a huge breath of fresh air.

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