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Song You Need to Know: CL, ‘Hwa’

CL has never been shy about speaking her mind, and on her bratty, super-catchy new single, “HWA” (stylized as “+H₩A+”), the Korean rapper hits back at the “haters” while making her welcome return to the global stage.

Co-written with Jean-Baptiste (Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Little Mix) and Tokki, with production from Kurtis McKenzie (Childish Gambino, Doja Cat) and Dave Hamelin, the hip-hop track starts off with na-na-na-style chants and slinky synths before exploding into full-blown stadium rap.

CL’s rapping prowess is on full display, as she deftly weaves in and out of Korean and English, while riding a booming bass line and snappy snares. “This is my place, got it?” she snarls early on, setting the pace for an animated, hype track that’s at once a declaration of independence and a sassy kiss-off to those who dared to come for the Queen of K-Pop’s throne. “Come again, copy copy,” she raps, “Try to follow me again, quickly, quickly.”

From her early days as leader and main rapper of the wildly successful girl group 2NE1 to her current solo career, CL has always toed the line between hard and soft, both in terms of rapping style and subject matter. “HWA” is her most confident track yet, with battle-ready beats and a playful swagger that matches the aggressive lyrics.

“Haters gon’ hate, I never change my attitude,” she raps. “Envy and jealousy are the shadow of success/C to the L, the mother of Korean culture.”

CL calls “HWA” an “identity piece song,” explaining to Rolling Stone that the word itself has multiple meanings in both Korean and Chinese, including variations on themes of fire, flower, change, and wealth. “That was the energy and tone,” CL says of both the song and its accompanying music video.

“HWA” arrives alongside the slow-jamming “5-STAR” as the first two singles from CL’s long-awaited debut solo album, ALPHA. The full-length set is due to be released November 30th.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

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