On November 6, Block B’s Zico released his solo single “Tough Cookie.” The song and MV caused a rift between fans due to its polarizing rap. It’s catchy-though-over-processed bridge leads to a repetitive chorus, but the lyrics cover a lot of ground despite the offensive word and imagery. The latter element taken out of consideration, Zico’s solo throws a lot of punches, but the song is nothing more than a cookie crumb.
Cockiness dominates “Tough Cookie” and given Block B’s issues with their former company and their rise to popularity, the song has the right to be cocky. The lyrics cover Block B’s issues before shifting to how larger companies scouted Zico while earning respect despite playing “a part in Hallyu.” Even though idol rappers tend to get criticism, many do consider Zico to be a legitimate rapper, so his lyrics do cover what many feel about him.
The one element of the rap that stands out is the part where Don Mills calls out people from his past. This section is the most relatable portion of the song many people would love to contact past friends, bosses, and teachers to tell them “See! I made it.” Relatable content always makes a song better; kudos for these lines!
The bridge, too, is a nice touch. Although synthesizers are used too much, the added distortion made the bridge cool and memorable. This was “Tough Cookie’s” best part.
As a whole, it was difficult to really “feel” the song, and this is coming from someone who is a Zico and Block B fan. After the first verse, the “Tough Cookie” crumbles and becomes lyrically obnoxious. Zico comes across as full of himself (which is typical “rap-swag,” especially in many songs from the U.S.), leading to the controversial line that has many talking. It was here the song became fairly unlistenable.
Reading the title of the single, it’s clear Don Mills collaborated on it. But, is it necessary for him to name-drop himself five times? The single no longer becomes Zico’s. Zico should be proud he gets to work with and be mentioned alongside some of the bigger names in the industry, but if names of others need to keep being inserted, the song becomes a cry for attention over a legitimate testament for how far one’s come. This is where the song lost me.
Another off-putting element was the use of swearing. People swear, yes, and swearing is used frequently in music, especially hip-hop (see Epik High’s recent hit “Born Hater”), but it isn’t necessary to get a point across in most cases. In a way, the questionable content seems to be more for shock value, but it’s not really shocking. Adding it these days doesn’t make a song edgy or cool because it’s like every other “hardcore” rap song out there. With that said, “Tough Cookie” isn’t really anything special in the grand scheme of things. I expected more from Zico.
As a side note, if you listen to the song long enough, the chorus starts to sound like “TOP cooking.”
Soloist Zico is different than Block B Zico. Besides bathing in cookies, given the nature of the lyrics, it would have been fitting to have some wild imagery to make the video memorable. The MV is far from memorable and is really no different than many Western-style rap and hip-hop videos over the years:
2) Auto Garages/Chop Shops
And that’s just the most cliché elements without the controversial ones mentioned. “Tough Cookie” is just a boring, run-of-the-mill MV. That’s not impressive. This one, along with many other K-Pop MVs the past few years will just simply be forgotten because there is nothing that screams “pay attention to me!” For this being a Zico video, I expected some more craziness than what was presented.
Immediately following the release, many International fans blew a collective gasket over the use of the word “faggot” and images of the Confederate Flag on Zico’s jacket. Many fans on K-Pop news portals and forums have stated that Zico lost fans over the incident, even after Seven Seasons issued apologies for the use of derogatory language.
On one hand, the use of the flag and derogatory language sets K-Pop back since it is trying to appeal to a global audience. In one song and MV, in this now-very-PC world, several individuals could be offended given the context. For many, the Confederate Flag is a symbol of suppression, and the term “faggot” could reflect negatively toward the LGBT community given how it was used:
Rappers these days don’t have the skills so they all have a snap back fetish
You`re such a faggot bitch
In some circles, when used in this context, many could see the line as calling rappers non-masculine, which is why so many took issue to the phrasing. So, it is easy to understand why people would be mad.
On the other side of the coin, some from the LGBT community have come out to say they aren’t offended and realize the line is something in rap. The phrase is a stylistic choice, but was it the right word to use? Seven Seasons seems to feel it may have not been, thus the apology. As a whole, it is one of the many poor choices by K-Pop as a whole lately that can hinder its potential reach.
Controversy aside, “Tough Cookie” isn’t anything special. The song has a catchy bridge, but the repetitive chorus and unoriginal video makes it forgettable. Zico’s cookie crumbled with his solo. Hopefully his next single will stand out and have some more of his goofy charms to help it be successful.
—- Joelle Halon