Tiger JK and the rest of the Jungle Entertainment crew, including his wife Yoon Mi-rae and popular hip hop duo Leessang, performed to a packed crowd last Friday night at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA. When I walked out of the venue that night feeling electrified, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the Kpopmasters event that was still fresh in my mind from the previous weekend.
The K-pop acts were very precise in their performances, but felt extremely rushed. Their crowd interaction was minimal, and for the most part felt very generic and scripted. At the Jungle Concert, the artists were casual and engaging. They took time to interact with the crowd both during and between songs. Leessang’s Gil emptied water bottles on fans and Gary almost got pulled into the crowd on numerous occasions when shaking hands. Tiger JK continually pumped up the audience with chants and Yoon Mi-rae spoke candidly with the crowd in Korean and English. Jay Park and Dumbfoundead even made “blink and you’ll miss ’em” cameos and there were two different encore performances throughout the course of the evening. In a venue that was drastically smaller than the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the K-hip hop crowd felt much livelier than the one full of idol fans.
This got me wondering as to whether Korean rap and hip-hop has a better chance of making it in the US than K-pop. Admittedly, rapper Crown J attempted to debut in the States with the English release of “I’m Good” back in 2009, but I think it is safe to say that BoA and Se7en had more success in their American forays than he did. But since then, Far East Movement has met with tremendous success in the past year, and while they got their start in the United States, they have raised the profile of Asians in the US music industry. Their variety of “electro-hop” is much closer to Yoon Mi-rae’s latest single “Get It In” than SNSD’s “The Boys” track. Both Yoon Mi-rae and Tiger JK are fluent in English, their performances are less manufactured, making the experience more in line with what an American audience would expect from a concert and the current pop scene favors solo artists like Katy Perry, Rihanna or Justin Bieber over large groups singing and dancing on stage.
Tiger JK stated in an LA Times article, “I want to win a Grammy and say ‘thank you’ in Korean.” and I have to admit that as much of a K-pop fangirl as I am, I think he’s got a better shot than most. Do you think that K-hip hop could conquer the American music scene first, or do we just need the right K-pop act to make the leap and take all of the glory?