Epik High (Hangul: 에픽하이) is a South Korean alternative hip hop group from Seoul, composed of Tablo, Mithra Jin, and DJ Tukutz. They are known for having combined genres and different styles of hip hop throughout their career, which has seen the release of eleven studio albums since their debut in 2003, as well as for their coverage of diverse lyrical themes. The group went on hiatus between 2010–2012 whilst two of the members served mandatory military service. Upon their return, YG Entertainment signed Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz on July 25, 2012, with Tablo having already released a solo album under the label. They have received international acclaim, winning several music awards in Korea and becoming the second Korean act to play at Coachella.
Epik High formed in 2001 upon frontman Tablo’s return to South Korea after being educated in Vancouver and Stanford. With the addition of Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz, the group made their beginnings in the underground hip hop scene in Seoul, performing with other Korean hip hop groups such as CB Mass and as part of the “Movement Crew”, one of the largest hip hop crews of the time in South Korea. As the genre was unpopular among mainstream audiences, the group was relatively unknown early on in their career, with critics seeing little market for “lyrically complex music” that did not match the K-pop model of the time. Their first performance was to a small audience at the amusement park Everland in 2002. They released their debut album, Map of the Human Soul, under Woollim Entertainment in 2003, and began to gain success with the release of their second album, High Society (2004).
Swan Songs was intended to be Epik High’s final album, following the poor performance of their previous two releases; however, it became a mainstream hit and made them one of the most popular hip hop groups in Korea. The album was a chart success with the title track, “Fly”, reaching number one on domestic charts. “Fly” also featured on the soundtracks for FIFA 07 and Pump It Up. Another of the album tracks, “Paris” featuring Loveholics’ Jisun, was also a hit in Japan and Korea. The album was repackaged the following year as Black Swan Songs, which included remixes of several tracks.
Originally set for release in October 2006, Epik High’s fourth album Remapping the Human Soul was released on January 23, 2007. The two upbeat lead singles, “Fan” and “Love Love Love”, were hits, while the rest of the album was darker and tackled diverse themes including sexual crime, war, religion, and education. The album was reportedly censored by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as a result of its lyrical and thematic content. Despite this, it was a commercial success in both Korea and Japan. It went on to sell 120,301 copies during the year, making it the third best-selling album of 2007 in South Korea. During this time, the group spoke of their “no genre, just music” philosophy, expressing frustration with “narrow”, “out-dated and isolated” perceptions of the hip hop genre.
Over 50,000 copies of their fifth studio album entitled Pieces, Part One were pre-ordered before its release in April 2008. The album’s release was followed by music videos for the singles “One”, “Breakdown”, and “Umbrella”. After the album’s success, Epik High released the EP Lovescream to acclaim in October, with the EP’s title track “1 Minute 1 Second” topping online music charts.
In early 2009, Epik High parted ways with Woollim Entertainment and founded Map The Soul, an independent record label that consisted of Epik High, MYK, Planet Shiver and Dok2. They released their seventh work, a “book album” entitled 魂: Map the Soul, on March 27 and distributed it exclusively on Epik High’s website. Tablo stated that 魂: Map the Soul is not the group’s official sixth album, but a special project.
Music videos for the single “Map the Soul” were released on May 19, with worldwide and Korean versions. To commemorate their first release under the independent label, Epik High toured in Japan and performed at Melon Ax in Seoul with Kero One and MYK. That month they also performed in various cities in the US (New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle) along with Dumbfoundead, Kero One, MYK and Far East Movement.
On July 22, Epik High and Map the Soul signed electronic group Planet Shiver and released the remix album Remixing The Human Soul.
Epik High’s sixth album, , was released on September 16 with the title single “Wannabe (따라해)” featuring Mellow, an electronic pop track critiquing K-pop trends. The studio album contained 30 tracks in a 2-CD format. Its release was followed by a South Korean tour, beginning on September 19.
On October 15, 2009, DJ Tukutz enlisted for two years in mandatory military service, two days after his marriage. He was discharged in August 2011.
While DJ Tukutz was conscribed, Epik High’s seventh studio album Epilogue was released under Woollim Entertainment on March 9, 2010 to chart success. The music video for its title track, “Run”, featured several members of the Woollim-signed boy band Infinite prior to their debut: L as the video’s protagonist, Sunggyu as guitarist, Woohyun as bassist, and Sungjong as keyboardist. Infinite’s Hoya and Dongwoo also served as backup dancers during promotions of the single on various music shows.
Shortly after the album’s release, Mithra Jin also entered into mandatory military service and served two years between August 3, 2010 – May 14, 2012. He entered the 102 reserve in Chuncheon and served as an infantry rifle soldier, a member of the military band, and a GOP soldier before settling at the Defense Media Agency (DEMA).
During the two-year hiatus that followed, Tablo (who is a Canadian citizen and therefore was not required to carry out military service) signed a four-year contract with YG Entertainment and released a solo album titled Fever’s End on November 1, 2011. However, he indicated that Epik High had not disbanded.
In July 2012, it was confirmed that Epik High would be making a comeback as a group under YG Entertainment after a three-year hiatus. On October 9, the group released the single “It’s Cold” featuring the newly signed Lee Hi, to chart success. They digitally released the album 99, as well as music videos for the tracks “Up” (featuring Park Bom) and “Don’t Hate Me”, on October 19. The album was physically released on October 23 with two extra tracks not on the digital release.
During the SBS Gayo Daejeon on December 30 they joined Dynamic Duo and Simon D for “Cypher 2012”, a remix of popular hip-hop tracks of the year to much acclaim.
On October 23, 2013, Epik High released the single “420” featuring Double K, Yankie, Dok2, Sean2Slow, Dumbfoundead, TopBob, and MYK to celebrate their tenth anniversary.
On May 18, 2014, they released the single “With You” in collaborating with Chinese singer Bibi Zhou, as a re-recording of “Fool” (originally featuring Bumkey) from their previous album Epilogue. On October 18, YG Entertainment released the music video for the pre-release track “Born Hater” featuring a line-up of noted rappers. Epik High’s eighth studio album, Shoebox, was physically released on October 22 and met with critical praise for the emotion and complex lyrical content of lead singles “Happen Ending” and “Spoiler” as well as other tracks including “Burj Khalifa” and “Amor Fati”.
In March 2015, Epik High performed at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
In April 2016, they became the second ever Korean artists to perform at the Coachella music festival, where their performance was well received by audiences.
On October 23, 2017, they released We’ve Done Something Wonderful, their ninth studio album.
On October 3, 2018, Epik High announced they would be leaving YG Entertainment after 6 years.
In December 2018, it was announced that the group would be going on tour in Europe from March 15-20.
On February 12, 2019, Epik High announced a North American tour from April 1 – May 3.
On February 19, 2019, it was announced Epik High would be signing to William Morris Endeavor.
Epik High released their 2nd EP, Sleepless in __________, on March 11 at 6 PM KST.