Editors’ Notes “My language for producing music is way more diverse now and allows me to create different-sounding music,” Yaeji tells Apple Music. With her mesmerizing voice and chill vibe, the New York (by way of South Korea) DJ, producer, and multimedia artist Kathy Yaeji Lee is a unique presence in dance music. Her songs are celebratory yet meditative—influenced by house, R&B, and hip-hop. They’re reflective of her dual heritage and intercontinental mindset, ranging from stunt anthems (“raingurl,” “drink i’m sippin on”) to her lowercased cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit.” Recorded before inking a deal with XL (the home to Tyler, The Creator and other sonic misfits), WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던 is a personal and intimate mixtape she likens to a musical diary. Sung-spoken in whispery tones in English and Korean, Yaeji’s observations are sharp, whether yearning for stillness (“IN PLACE 그 자리 그대로”), indulging in simple pleasures (“WAKING UP DOWN,” “MONEY CAN’T BUY”), or getting in her feelings (“WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던,” “IN THE MIRROR 거울”). It also represents a time when she soaked up new production techniques and was inspired by 2000s bossanova-influenced electronica, ’80s-’90s Korean music (curated by her parents, who live outside of Seoul), R&B, and soul. Below Yaeji walks through each song on her mixtape. “Every track is a bit different,” she says “I really hope it brings a little bit of positivity.”

MY IMAGINATION 상상
“I wrote it with the intention of warming people up to what I do. I repeat a lot in this song in Korean: ‘If you follow me in this moment I chose, right in this moment.’ And I repeat ‘my imagination’ over and over in Korean. I wanted it to feel really smooth and continuous, almost cyclical, but in a way that felt relaxing. It’s a way to ease you into the next song, which is quite emotional for me.”

WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던
“It’s one of the older songs on the mixtape. It was written at a very emotional time, when I was going through a lot of transitions and growing pains. In the midst of all that darkness, I was able to stay positive because of family around me. I think that notion of family and unconditional love is so Korean to me. Thinking of Korea gets me very emotional. My dad messaged [himself scatting] to me on KakaoTalk [a Korean messaging app] a year and a half ago. He said, ‘I have a song idea for you. Use it if it helps you in any way.’ When I finished up the mixtape, I realized it would be so perfect and meaningful for the track, so I added it in.”

IN PLACE 그 자리 그대로
“It was written around the time me and my friends were watching a video of Stevie Wonder performing live with a talk box [a cover of The Carpenters’ ‘Close to You’ on The David Frost Show in 1972]. We were listening to that a lot and it was stuck in my head. I loved how the talk box sounded; it’s so warm and fuzzy, his performance is so playful. It also has such a robotic quality. I wanted to create this feeling but using a completely different technique. I layered nine different vocal tracks to create that harmony you hear in the intro. It affected each layer differently and holds a similar feeling that I received when I heard Stevie Wonder. Emotionally, it was written when I didn’t want things to change. Just for a moment, I wanted things to stay still. It’s about yearning for stillness.”

WHEN I GROW UP
“It’s an idea I’ve been settling and meditating on for a long time. It’s the concept of a younger me, or a younger person, imagining what it’s like to become an adult. There’s another perspective in the song where it’s me, the adult version of myself, telling my younger self: ‘Unfortunately, when you grow older, you’re fearful for a lot of things. You don’t want to get hurt. You suppress your emotions and pretend like everything is OK.’ All these things I had no idea would happen when I was younger; it’s my reality, our reality, as adults. It’s a kind of back and forth about that.”

MONEY CAN’T BUY (feat. Nappy Nina)
“It’s the really playful one. It’s purely about friendship and being goofy and positive. The thing I repeat in Korean: ‘What I want to do is eat rice and soup.’ It’s pretty common for me. I’ll put the rice in the soup and mix it up, so it becomes like a porridge. I’m repeating that and it’s followed by ‘What I want, money can’t buy.’ Friendship isn’t something that’s quantifiable or measurable with materialism. It’s completely magical and far more special than what can be described. It’s like an appreciation song for friendship. It’s kind of perfect that Nappy Nina was featured on it. I had met her last minute. She’s a friend of my mixing engineer. She came in and recorded immediately; we realized we had mutual friends, so now we keep in touch. That lends itself well to the message of the song.”

FREE INTERLUDE (feat. Lil Fayo, Trenchcoat & Sweet Pea)
“It felt really liberating to include this in the mixtape. It was a completely natural, goofy hang with my friends. We were having fun making music together, kind of first takes of freestyles. The spirit of our hang and our friendship is really in that track. It’s a very meaningful one for me.”

SPELL 주문 (feat. YonYon & G.L.A.M.)
“It was a joy to put together. It started as a bare-bones demo that I had lyrics to. When I was writing it, I was thinking of the experience of performing onstage to a sea of people that you’ve never met before and sharing your most intimate thoughts and experiences. It’s casting a spell; you’re sharing something that only you know, and then they’re applying it in whatever way it means for themselves. I thought of YonYon because we went to the same middle school in Japan when I was living there for one year. We’ve stayed in touch since, and she’s doing great with music in Japan, so she’s always on my mind to collaborate, and this felt perfect. G.L.A.M. is a close friend of a friend. I had also played shows with her a long time ago when I moved to New York, so I thought she was also another perfect collaborator.”

WAKING UP DOWN
“Purely a feel-good song. There’s a moment of questioning and hesitation. The Korean verses embody that side of it. The parts in English are about the feeling I had when I had all of these basic life routines down and felt healthy, mentally and physically. It’s a song to groove to and hopefully feel inspired by. And also, not to get too wrapped up in the literal things: cooking, waking up, hydrating. Yes, it’s important, but the Korean lyrics remind you: Don’t forget, there are these bigger themes in life you have to think about.”

IN THE MIRROR 거울
“It’s the dramatic one. I really wanted to try singing in a way that feels like I’m unleashing pent-up energy. It was written after a difficult tour that mentally and physically stretched me quite thin. It came from a thought I had while I was looking in the mirror in the airplane bathroom. I think being up in the air makes you more emotional. I don’t know how true that is, but I definitely feel that way. I was really in my feelings and really upset.”

THE TH1NG (feat. Victoria Sin & Shy One)
“I want to credit Vic and Shy because I knew I wanted to work with them. I sent them a pretty bare-bones demo, just synth and samples. They’re partners and based in London. Vic is an incredible performing artist and Shy is an incredible DJ. Vic came up with all of the lyrics and vocals. They wrote it on their birthday, stayed at home alone in their bedroom, surrounded themselves with plants, meditated, and had an introspective stream of consciousness of what is this ‘TH1NG.’ It sounds really abstract, but they explore the concept. Shy did a lot of the production on it and built on the little things I sent them.”

THESE DAYS 요즘
“Do you know the [anime] genre Slice of Life? It feels like a Slice of Life song, which is, the way I understand it, it’s mundane day-to-day lifestyle about meditating on time. I would visually describe it as feeling like sitting on a stoop with your friends on a nice fall afternoon sharing stories with each other about how you’re doing. That kind of feeling. It’s not overly dramatic or purposeful; it’s a mood.”

NEVER SETTLING DOWN
“It’s a song about making a determined promise to myself to never settle. I should always stay open-minded, to continue unlearning and learning things, to shed things that felt toxic to me in the past. I say things like ‘I’m never shooting the s**t,’ which is a balance of not taking myself too seriously but also that I’m not playing, I’m working every day. It’s a confident track, and I hope it brings confidence to other people that hear it. At the end, the breaks come in, and it feels like a big release, like a moment where you’re taking flight or dancing like crazy, alone in your room. That’s how I wanted to end the mixtape.”

SONG
MY IMAGINATION 상상
1
2:20
 
WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던
2
3:49
 
IN PLACE 그자리 그대로
3
2:20
 
WHEN I GROW UP
4
2:42
 
MONEY CAN'T BUY (feat. Nappy Nina)
5
2:50
 
FREE INTERLUDE (feat. Lil Fayo, Trenchcoat & Sweet Pea)
6
2:21
 
SPELL 주문 (feat. YonYon & G.L.A.M.)
7
3:06
 
WAKING UP DOWN
8
3:21
 
IN THE MIRROR 거울
9
4:32
 
THE TH1NG (feat. Victoria Sin & Shy One)
10
4:12
 
THESE DAYS 요즘
11
2:59
 
NEVER SETTLING DOWN
12
3:59