In the midst of mandatory military enlistment, BTS rapper j-hope released HOPE ON THE STREET VOL.1, a six-track tribute to his origins as a street dancer in Gwangju, South Korea. Like bandmate RM before him, j-hope uses HOPE ON THE STREET VOL.1 as an opportunity to collaborate with other artists—both from Korea and the US. On lead single “NEURON,” an old-school, naughts-inspired hip-hop track named after the underground dance crew j-hope first joined in middle school, the artist splits the verses with South Korean rappers Gaeko and YOON MIRAE. All three rap about the vitality of their origins and the importance of staying grounded in simple passions. “Music and family, that's what it's all about/They keep me going like day in and day out,” sings Yoon in the final verse. The album includes two songs revamped from previously released versions: a slightly softer dance mix of “what if...,” which was a B-side on j-hope's 2022 solo debut Jack in the Box, and a solo version of “on the street,” j-hope’s 2023 single collaboration with American rapper J. Cole. The former brings on South Korean rapper and singer JINBO the SuperFreak, while the latter gives the song’s central rap verse back to j-hope, who uses it to question our individual choices within the broader vagaries of time: “What the hell is time?/Is it medicine, evil, fate?/For us, knowing the way and walking are different/I'm just walking all night, all night (all right).” In this solo version, “on the street” remains a fan song (“The distance between you and the whole world/Our street full of stories and textures”)—a message to ARMY, aka fans of BTS, as the group members continue their time away from the music industry. Frequent BTS behind-the-scenes collaborators Melanie Joy Fontana and Michel Schulz share songwriting credits with Big Hit producer Pdogg and j-hope on “i wonder...,” a slim, funky love song (“Just enjoy it, this love/We can keep forever falling”) that features bandmate Jung Kook’s smooth vocals. On “lock / unlock,” j-hope collaborates with superproducer benny blanco and guitar legend Nile Rodgers for a groovy English-language track that allows the rapper to show off his lesser-heard pop music vocals. HYBE colleague Huh Yunjin, the Korean American singer of LE SSERAFIM, comes along for “i don’t know,” a low-key dance track about a relationship on a precipice: “Guess we're on the edge/Tryna figure out what's really on your mind.” While short, HOPE ON THE STREET VOL.1 feels like the first chapter of a larger story, with the album’s “volume” designation promising more reflections on where j-hope came from, and how those origins still influence the K-pop superstar today.

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