Jeebanoff – The Korean R&B artist that delivers the vibes

Artists like jeebanoff (지바노프) show just how wide-ranging Kpop can be, specifically the lesser known K-R&B genre.

After a slightly rocky start as a trainee, jeebanoff garnered attention as a rookie artist in the R&B scene with an award-winning song from his 2016 debut album.

An artist under the label goodtomeetyou since 2017, Korean singer-songwriter jeebanoff’s mellow crooning, minimal but flowy lyrics, and accompanying album designs hypnotize you into his music world of story-telling.

If you are a Spotify listener, you might have come across jeebanoff in the public playlist ‘TrenChill K-R&B.’ I think his songs feel right at home there – including some might have been overlooked for the playlist.

In this article, I try to highlight the aspects about jeebanoff that goes beyond the songs in the aforementioned playlist so  you can be on your way to creating your own playlist of the artist’s wide-ranging sounds and start venturing into the world of Korean R&B.

Negative trainee experience becomes inspiration for award-winning song

jeebanoff spent about a year and a half as a trainee, releasing the single ‘Hide’ under the name jeeban (지반) and debuting in 2016.

Official audio of ‘Hide’ by jeebanoff

But his trainee days didn’t prove to be the support that he had hoped for as an eager artist to-be.

He mentions in various interviews that he was made to run errands and to do cleaning chores while he was at the label. On top of that, he says the label didn’t even allow him to do performances or to feature for other artists.

The mixtape he was working on at the time made him realize that he needed to get out of the label that wasn’t doing much to help him as an artist. But what the label did give him was material for what would become his award-winning song.

‘sungbook-gu kids’ (Korean title ‘삼선동 사거리,’ meaning ‘Samseon-dong intersection’) was released in jeebanoff’s debut album ‘so fed up’ in 2016 and went on to win ‘Best R&B and Soul song’ category at the Korean Music Awards in 2017.

‘sungbook-gu kids’ by jeebanoff

jeebanoff says producer LNNN (레넌) – who had also just left the same label – suggested they tell their story of through a song. LNNN already had the beats and the title – ‘삼선동 사거리’ which is directly translated as ‘Samseon-dong intersection,’ Samseon-dong being the area in the Seoul district of Sungbook-gu (mentioned in the English title) where their then-label was located.

Inspired by LNNN’s idea, jeebanoff wrote lyrics that speak to his trainee days when he was stuck in a room in a basement, listening to the Billboard charts and aspiring to be on it someday.

Lyrics that deliver simple and relatable narratives

The singer-songwriter’s lyrics show how simple narratives can still be relatable and – coupled with the right melody and beats – can create the flow needed to gel all the elements together.

Romantic relationships is a dominant theme in his songs, particularly the regrettable aspects of them. I think he manages to pull these with levity (both lyrically and musically) but also honesty.

I’ve become quite a timid person
Why have I become a good guy only on the surface
I was the one being generous and comforting all the time
Why are you the one not satisfied all the time

Translated from ‘Timid (Feat. Changmo)’

I won’t try to convince you with elaborate excuses
I don’t think I can make you understand when you say my words are suspicious and you won’t believe me

Translated from ‘NOT ME!’

And then in a song like ‘Still HERE,’ he expresses loneliness and helplessness that avoids sounding depressing with the uplifting melody and beats:

I’m frozen somewhere deep inside myself
I’m stuck there, no one can see me
I’ll stay here and rest a while
I’ll stay here, I’ll stay here

Translated from ‘Still HERE’

No matter the theme, I think jeebanoff’s songs tend to fit right in the middle of the spectrum of happy-sad songs. His songs aren’t brooding or emo but they don’t sound completely chirpy either. And yet, they manage to make you feel good listening to them.

Album art that offers a visual treat

While jeebanoff doesn’t have a long list of albums to his name yet, album art is a noteworthy visual component of his work. His collaboration with these three Korean artists have given very different visual feels to his albums:

By Bakijoo

Beginning with his debut album ‘so fed up’ (2016), artist Bakijoo (바퀴주) worked on various album covers for jeebanoff with her brand of pixel art.

LP ‘so fed up’ (2016)

The ‘so fed up’ album cover fits in with the ‘blue’ referenced in the lyrics to the song ‘sungbook-gu kids’:

This was followed up with collaborations throughout various albums in subsequent years.

EP ‘For. The. Few.’ (2016)

EP ‘KARMA’ (2017)

EP ‘주마등‘ (2018)

Single ‘We (OUI)’ (2019)

LP ‘GOOD THING.’ (2020)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 바퀴주/코딱지비주얼 (@bakijoo)

By Oshi Oka

For his singles, jeebanoff has worked on projects with 2D/3D graphic designer Kim Jung-tae (김정태) who goes by the name Oshi Oka (오시 오카).

His resume also includes artwork for high profile artists such as Lee Young-ji (이영지) and Beenzino (빈지노).

Single ‘B.T.N.’ (2019)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jungtae Kim (@oshi_oka)

Single ‘Boomerang’ (2019)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jungtae Kim (@oshi_oka)

Single ‘Overflow’ (2020)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Jungtae Kim (@oshi_oka)

By Cardi

jeebanoff’s 2021 artwork collaborator was graphic designer Cardi (카디, 오가현), who also goes by the social media handle ‘caraphics.’

Listen to the album ‘VOID.’ and you might agree that the bold and futuristic style of this designer matches the experimental sounds of jeebanoff’s music in 2021.

Single ‘I MEAN I MEAN.’ (2021)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by CARDI | 카디 (@caraphics)

LP ‘VOID.’ (2021)

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A post shared by CARDI | 카디 (@caraphics)

A short comment on album ‘VOID.’

Just before enlisting in Korea’s mandatory military service that would put him on a hiatus, Jeebanoff released his rather experimental LP titled ‘VOID.’ (stylized with the fullstop at the end of the word).

Unlike his previous albums, ‘VOID.’ has futuristic sounds that are noticeably in faster tempos than his style of laid back music. According to its description, the album fuses post-disco, contemporary R&B of the 1980’s, UK garage music of the 2000’s and modern synth-pop sounds.

Complete audio of 2021 album ‘VOID.’

Like it or not, ‘VOID.’ might be a preview of how jeebanoff’s artistic range will expand as he engages with different genres.

If you’re one to keep open mind (and ear) to music, look out for future releases by the artist to see what he tries next to bring out the best of his unique mellow vocals.

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