Ahead of its Time: Mino and Bobby’s ‘The Mobb’

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As MOBB, Mino and Bobby were disruptors in the best way possible and this criminally underrated record broke boundaries set upon idol rappers

While scrolling through Twitter today, I came across a track I hadn’t heard in a couple of years: “Body” by rapper, producer and Winner member Mino. “Body” dropped in 2016 and was part of a stunning EP called The Mobb which Mino created with iKON’s rapper Bobby. The duo were label-mates at the time (Bobby announced his exit from YG Entertainment with the rest of the members of iKON in 2022 while Mino and Winner still remain on the roster) and are still close friends till today. The Mobb was named after the project the two artists formed together called MOBB, a combination of the letters in both their names.

As MOBB, Mino and Bobby were disruptors in the best way possible. Their debut EP was one of the key albums that broke boundaries set upon idol rappers, with music videos and lyrics that addressed sex, rebellion, heartbreak, depression, and and recklessness– all tied together by the pair’s friendship. It was also rolled out cleverly, introducing each rapper’s solo tracks first to give audiences a taste of their personalities and the individual messages they wanted to put into the world, followed by their collaborative tracks to explore their synergy as a duo. Both artists were heavily involved in the production and songwriting of each track and The Mobb was a gloriously honest glimpse of their perspectives of the world.

MOBB comprised Bobby of iKON [L] and Mino of Winner [R]. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Bobby’s solo “Holup!” dropped first and it was a blend of chaotic, discordant synth and explosive trap. Bobby takes control with tremendous confidence and somehow elevates his raspy rap to become the point of attention. The soundscape is an absolute reckless mess but that’s exactly what the song is about. It stems from an aggressive, no-fucks-given attitude as he spits, “Call your friends and gather, let’s party all night/ Whoever throws up tissues, you’ll get kicked out/ Right now I feel so high/ If we run out, order up a hundred champagnes.” He’s ready to set the world on fire and he doesn’t care one bit.

Mino’s solo “Body” made a complete 180, diving into a world of seduction, sex, love and grief to build the emotional core of The Mobb. The beauty of “Body” is that despite it being considered one of the sexiest songs in K-pop thanks to its slow rolling trap, breathy adlibs and powerful bass, it’s actually about the pain, longing and desperation that follows the end of a relationship: “We may have different intentions/I might borrow some courage from alcohol/And call you by mistake/I don’t know, my judgement is/Clouded clouded clouded/Unconsciously, In the air/I draw draw draw you/I think I’m crazy.”

The songs on which the duo unite are “Hit Me” featuring producer Kush, a playful disco-funk party anthem about letting your worries go and partying all night (which my siblings and I would blast while driving around Mumbai at 3 AM) and “Full House,” a menacing display of gritty rolling trap that allows Mino and Bobby to show off their individual rap styles on verses that boast about their skills as artists and their swag. The physical version of The Mobb also featured more suprises– both rappers participated in Korea’s most iconic hip-hop reality contest Show Me The Money (Bobby in season three and Mino in season four) and decided to include the original tracks they had performed while competing. Mino brings in Big Bang’s Taeyang on the introspective “Fear,” while Bobby unleashes the confident “Raise Your Guard and Bounce” that won him the crown in season three of the show.

The Mobb was just their debut EP and had some of the most fascinating and intricate pieces of production and songwriting I’d heard, but it didn’t blow up as much as it should have–maybe it was because K-pop was still a bit of a niche interest in global pop and Korean hip-hop in general was still climbing the ladder to mainstream attention, but whatever the reason, it definitely deserves a little love today. I believe that if MOBB had dropped this record in 2021, 2022 or 2023, it would have been a viral hit, flooding across TikTok and Instagram with various challenges and a making bigger impact in the global music scene.

A MOBB reunion is something I’m still holding on hope for. I got to ask Mino about it in 2018, and his answer was a playful but cryptic, “Maybe you should ask our boss YG,” referring to YG Entertainment’s founder and ex-chairman Yang Hyunsuk (which, for obvious reasons, won’t be happening.) So with the topic of MOBB’s return fading into the past and Mino and Bobby moving on to various other projects in their lives–solo and with their respective bands–perhaps for now it’s enough to set The Mobb on replay and hope that the duo come across this piece, take pity on us, and bless us with the return of MOBB.

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