It’s official. Emma Stone is a confirmed Blackjack.
On Tuesday night, Stone publicly announced her obsession with K-pop onConan, describing the music to be “beyond excellent” and “very addictive.” When host Conan O’brien asked the Hollywood actress which K-pop artist was her current favorite, Stone listed girl group 2NE1, eliciting cheers from the audience. She later chose “I Am the Best” as her favorite song from the group.
Stone added that she became acquainted with the K-pop quartet when she was in Seoul three years ago for the The Amazing Spider-Manpremiere.
When Conan’s co-host Andy Richter claimed that each K-pop band has about 15 members, Stone showed off her K-pop knowledge and corrected him, saying that only certain groups, such as Girls’ Generation, have a large number of members.
There’s no doubt that South Korean music has grown to become a global phenomenon in recent years, with several K-pop and K-indie artists touring overseas and performing at renowned music festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW) and Liverpool Sound City. In addition, K-pop groups 2NE1, Girls’ Generation and Super Junior were recently nominated for a Teen Choice award.
You can watch the full clip of Conan and Stone’s K-pop conversation below:
Right on the heels of KCON 2015, FOX will be hosting its annual Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles next month. This year, three K-pop groups have been nominated for the inaugural Choice International Artist award.
Hip-hop quartet 2NE1 was nominated for the brand new category on Wednesday, alongside SM Entertainment’s Girls’ Generation and Super Junior. The three K-pop acts will be competing against British-Irish boy band One Direction, Australian rock band 5 Seconds of Summer, and British girl group Little Mix.
Launched in 1999 by FOX Network, the Teen Choice Awards celebrates popular and influential figures in film, TV, music and fashion. Every year, American teens between the ages of 13 and 19 vote for their favorite celebrity in each category, and the winners receive a surfboard with the awards show’s logo for that year.
K-pop fans can vote for their favorite artist by visiting TeenChoice.com or posting the artist’s name with the hashtag #ChoiceInternationalAward on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Voting ends next Friday, July 24.
The 2015 Teen Choice Awards will be held at Los Angeles’ Galen Center on Aug. 16 and will be aired live at 8-10 p.m. ET on Fox.
Last week, Girls’ Generation released the music video for their latest summer hit, “Party,” which currently has over 13 million views. Meanwhile, Super Junior is expected to release their 10th anniversary album, Devil, on Thursday. CL of 2NE1 is also slated to make her U.S. debut as a solo artist sometime later this year.
This is not the first time K-pop artists have been invited to the Teen Choice Awards. In 2009, Wonder Girls attended the ceremony as guests after opening up for The Jonas Brothers during their world tour.
Just as comic book, film and TV fans are soaking up pop culture galore at San Diego Comic-Con this week, Hallyu fans will have a chance to meet their idols at KCON 2015 later this month.
KCON announced Thursday that actors Kim Soo-hyun, Daniel Henney, Ki Hong Lee and Son Ho-jun will be joining the convention’s L.A. lineup. From July 31 to Aug.2, the star-studded convention will host autograph sessions, workshops, celebrity panels and concerts.
Best known for his role in the wildly popular South Korean drama My Love from Another Star, Kim Soo-hyun is one of the biggest names in Hallyu today. The 27-year-old actor first rose to fame after starring in the musical drama Dream High. He recently wrapped his latest project The Producers, a mockumentary set in a Korean broadcasting company.
Daniel Henney is a household name among K-drama and Hollywood fans. Born in Michigan to a Korean adoptee mother and a American father, Henney first rose to fame in Korea after playing a charismatic surgeon in the popular 2005 drama My Lovely Sam Soon. Since then, he has starred in films and TV series in both sides of the world, including roles in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Big Hero 6and My Father. Henney will be making his U.S. television comeback as a series regular in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
Son Ho-jun has garnered several Best New Actor nominations for portraying the character “Haitai” in the 2013 drama Reply 1994. Since then, the singer-turned-actor has appeared as a regular and guest star in popular Korean variety shows, including Running Man and Youth Over Flowers.
This year, KCON will be held in both coasts, with over 90 celebrities slated to attend. In L.A., K-pop artists Super Junior, Shinhwa, Zion.T & Crush, Got7, SISTAR, Roy Kim, Block B and AOA will perform at the Staples Center on Aug. 1 and 2. Meanwhile, Girls Generation, Teen Top and VIXX will headline the New York concert.
To learn more about KCON 2015, visit the official website here. Last year, KoreAm interviewed girl group SPICA during the U.S. debut at KCON 2014. You can watch the interview below:
When Korean artists tour the U.S., they usually go big—from circus lighting to pyrotechnics to branded glowsticks, no detail is left unconsidered. But last September’s show at B.B. King’s in Times Square was not your typical K-pop event.
Sure, the crowd was your usual mix of exchange students and non-Korean superfans. And yeah, the concert was sold out, with lines stretching around the block. But they weren’t paying premium prices ($115 for VIP tickets, with packages costing as much as $1,850) to watch a hyper-produced spectacle from Big Bang or 2NE1. This was a hip-hop show, featuring the trio of artists—Dok2 (pronounced doh-KEE), the Quiett and Beenzino—who make up the Korean label Illionaire Records.
Inside the venue, the opening DJ failed to get the crowd moving, and the jetlagged artists, though well-received, were performing songs that seemed largely unknown to their audience. Illionaire’s first New York City show came and went without much of a bang. But in many ways, the journey to B.B. King’s was far more important than the actual destination.
Without the aid of major-label dollars, Illionaire has risen to the top of the Korean hip-hop scene on the strength of a DIY mentality that has made the three of them rich in their home country—and, slowly but surely, on their way to achieving notoriety abroad. In doing so, they are at the forefront of a new movement in independent Korean hip-hop that is proving that there is more to the country’s musical exports than cute K-pop groups.
Of course, rap isn’t a new genre in Korea. Since the early ’90s, K-pop artists have appropriated everything from new jack swing to gangsta rap. Legendary group Seo Taiji and Boys mimicked Cypress Hill—both B-Real’s nasal delivery and DJ Muggs’ grungy production—for their ’95 hit “Come Back Home.” Later, Drunken Tiger’s more authentic form of homegrown rap helped legitimize the artform.
While borrowing from (or paying homage to) hip-hop has been a common trend in K-pop since the early ’90s, the music itself has been regarded as second class. Cultural differences are the biggest hurdle, since rap’s roots are in anti-authoritarian and ego-driven rhetoric. For Koreans who are taught the age-old proverb “A nail that sticks out gets hammered,” rap’s attitude—not to mention the alcohol and drugs—is not only deemed crude, but sometimes taboo.
However, there is also the reality that Koreans, broadly speaking, are not shy about flaunting their wealth, which falls right in line with the ethos of contemporary hip-hop. In that sense, Illionaire’s music is a sign of the material times. To start, their content is dominated by boasts about cars, jewelry, and money—especially money.
Sonically, each Illionaire artist leans heavily on popular hip-hop trends. Dok2, who has collaborated in the past with K-pop superstars G-Dragon and HyunA, prefers Southern trap and co-opts flows from Tha Carter II-era Weezy and Meek Mill; the Quiett, known more for his production, leans toward boom-bap beats like Primo; and Beenzino raps with a sing-song melody that is unmistakably inspired by Drake. The connective thread is that, to their fans, these guys are the embodiment of hip-hop cool. And Illionaire fans aren’t limited to Korea. Though their lyrics are mostly in their mother tongue, with choruses and ad-libs often in English, one needn’t understand the meaning of the words to “turn up”—a term Dok2 popularized in Korea—to Illionaire’s music.
And word to MMG, Illionaire is truly “self-made.” In South Korea, giant corporations control the entertainment industry. K-pop behemoths like SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment house the biggest idol groups, while media conglomerates like CJ E&M distribute all physical and online music for 20-plus labels, including Illionaire Records. To be successful, most aspiring rappers either join the major-label system or struggle in the underground.
But as an independent entity, Illionaire is changing the paradigm. Without the heavy-handed oversight of corporate overseers, the three Illionaire artists are selling out shows throughout Korea and topping charts, with Beenzino’s “Dali, Van, Picasso” and Dok2’s “111%” and “Multillionaire” (produced by DJ Mustard) reaching the top 10 on Korean online music charts without help from Korea’s ubiquitous music shows or radio spins. In South Korea’s tiny music market (catering to a population of just 50 million), it’s pretty much unprecedented for an indie label to hold this much mainstream clout.
Today, emboldened by Illionaire’s success, more indie Korean rappers and R&B singers are thriving without major labels, including K-pop star Jay Park and his AOMG imprint and new star Keith Ape (“It G Ma”), who was originally a product of Korean indie HI-LITE Records.
Beyond their image and sound, Illionaire earns hip-hop cred because they are hustlers who have bucked the system to create—and make money—on their own terms. Follow the leaders.
“Most South Korean rappers are from wealthy families, especially well-known hip-hop musicians,” says 30-year-old rapper-producer the Quiett. “It’s strange, considering that hip-hop was birthed in the slums.”
Korean hip-hop has its roots in Gangnam—made famous by Psy’s hit—and not an impoverished neighborhood like the South Bronx. Members of seminal Korean rap groups like Dynamic Duo and Epik High all hail from the affluent Seoul district. Being that hip-hop is a foreign culture that costs money to emulate, those with more money naturally had more access.
It’s been three years since Korean American singer Ailee took the K-pop world by storm with her single “Heaven.” Now, the powerhouse vocalist is planning to drop her first full-length album this upcoming October.
“We have not decided on an exact comeback date, but we are planning for an October release,” YMC Entertainment, the singer’s agency, told TV Report. The agency also mentioned that Ailee has already begun recording songs and is steadily receiving new tracks from producers to include in the album.
On Tuesday, the 26-year-old singer released the track Johnny as part of Brave Brothers’ 10th anniversary album. She also recently shared a 15-second video that teases the song’s sultry choreography.
Kimchi dogs will be sold at the Los Angeles Dodgers game tonight in honor of the team’s fourth annual Korea Night. Presented by Korea Tourism Organization, this is an effort to celebrate Korean culture while having a fun time at a baseball game with family and friends.
The Dodgers will face the Texas Rangers, including South Korean outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, at Elysian Park in a sold-out game.
For the K-pop fans out there, you’re in for a special treat. South Korean rock band YB will perform at 6 p.m. for the pre-game show with a four-song set, followed by the Korean and American national anthems.
2NE1’s CL is also set to throw the first pitch. There will be an opportunity for CL to sign autographs at 7:30 p.m.
Attendees will receive a Korea Night themed T-shirt if they purchased the special event ticket package.
Six years have passed since South Korean hip-hop group Epik High last toured in the U.S., and last week, California fans made sure the group kicked off their highly-anticipated trek with a bang.
After successfully opening their 2015 North American Tour in San Francisco, Epik High headed to Los Angeles on May 29. Fans eagerly waited outside the Wiltern Theatre in Koreatown hours before the concert began, with the line winding around the block.
As fans squeezed into the theater, sweeping classical music echoed into the opulent gold ceiling. Instead of spectacular LED displays or set designs that are usually present at K-pop concerts, Epik High’s stage was minimally dressed with a single DJ booth that bore the band’s logo.
Promptly at 8 p.m., the concert kicked off with Koreatown rapper Parker, formerly known as Dumbfoundead, performing some of his signature songs, such as “Are We There Yet?” and “Ganghis Khan.” Fellow L.A. rappers Mike B and 1TYM’s Danny later joined him on stage to help create a dynamic performance.
Epik High then took the stage with their soothing, orchestral track “Encore” and transitioned to their signature, electronic song “Fly.” Fans chanted the lyrics while bobbing their glow sticks to the beat.
Members Tablo, Mithra and DJ Tukutz then briefly introduced themselves to the audience—with the help of dramatic theme songs—and performed the hard-hitting song “Get Out of the Way,” followed by Map the Soul tracks “Free Music” and “Top Gun.” The group closed the set with “Light It Up,” which was originally featured in G-dragon’s second solo album.
After a short break, the trio proceeded to perform the ballad “It’s Cold” when DJ Tukutz abruptly cut off the music and suggested a song change.
“It’s too hot for L.A.,” the DJ joked in accented English. “L.A. too dry. L.A. needs more moist.”
Keeping the suggestion in mind, the two rappers proceeded to perform the melancholy song “Umbrella,” only for Tukutz to stop the music again—this time, citing that the song was “too moist.” Deciding to save the slow songs for later, the trio dove into the infectious beats of “Burj Khalifa” and cinematic songs “Map the Soul” and “Rich.”
During intermission, the band read a letter thanking North American fans for their continued support. However, the endearing letter quickly degenerated into a list of things they like about North America, which spanned from famous celebrities, such as Justin Bieber, Drake and the Jonas Brothers, to random things, such as grizzly bears, frappuccinos and Stanford University.
After DJ Tukutz opened the second half of the concert by showing off his K-pop dance moves, the team reflected on their long-awaited return to the U.S.
“The most difficult part of this tour is that it’s far away from home,” Tablo said to the audience, adding that he already missed his family back in Korea. “There’s only one good reason to be away from home, and it’s to be home with you guys.”
Without any set or wardrobe changes, the trio continued to perform old fan favorites, such as “Love Love Love” and “The One,” to hits from their latest album Shoebox, including Tablo’s cover of labelmate Taeyang’s “Eyes, Nose, Lips.”
For the grand finale, Epik High closed the show with their dark, uptempo song “Fan,” but returned for an encore at their fans’ insistence and performed “Born Hater.” During the encore, Tablo and Mithra offered some heavy-duty fan service, tossing autographed shirts to the crowd and taking selfies and videos with their fans’ smartphones.
Epik High ended the night by saying farewell to their L.A. fans, promising to return and not make them wait six years for the next performance.
The next stop on Epik High’s North American trek is Seattle, where the hip-hop trio will perform at the Showbox Sodo in Seattle on June 2 before heading to Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, New York City and Toronto. For more information about the tour, visit the official tour website.
If you haven’t heard already, South Korean hip-hop group Epik High is currently in the middle of their North American Tour. The trio is scheduled to perform tonight at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.
For the “high skoolers” who are unable to attend tonight’s concert, don’t worry, we got you covered. KoreAm will be at Epik High’s L.A. concert, and we plan on live-tweeting throughout the night.
But before the festivities begin, here are 10 facts you may not know about Epik High.
1. Epik cameo in Lee Hyori’s “10 Minute” music video
Screenshot captured from Hyori’s “10 Minute” music video (Modified by KoreAm)
Before their debut, Epik High made a cameo in Lee Hyori’s “10 Minutes” music video. You can see the trio ogling Hyori in the background at the 0:42 mark.
2. Delayed Debut
Epik High with Simon D and Dynamic Duo (Photo via Seoul Sync)
Epik High formed in 2001 under the mentorship of other underground hip-hop artists, particularly CB Mass (now known as Dynamic Duo). However, the trio’s debut got postponed after Curbin of CB Mass was accused of embezzling Epik High’s funds for their first studio album. Epik High eventually signed with Woolim Entertainment, and with Curbin kicked out of CB Mass, Choiza and Gaeko moved on to form Dynamic Duo.
During their tenure at Woolim Entertainment, Epik High helped produce the K-pop boy band INFINITE. Tablo and Mithra both wrote lyrics for the band’s debut mini-album, First Invasion. Various INFINITE members also starred in Epik High’s music video for “Run.”
4. Swan Songs was intended to be Epik High’s final album
Epik High officially debuted in 2003 with their album Map the Soul. However, they did not achieve commercial success until their third album, which was titled Swan Songs because the members believed that it would be their final album together. Instead, Swan Songs launched Epik High to fame after their songs “Fly” and “Paris” topped Korean music charts.
5. Mithra Jin first debuted in a hip-hop group called, “K-Ryders”
Before he joined Epik High, Mithra made his debut as a rapper through K-Ryders, an underground hip-hop group that included members J-Win, DJ D-Tones, Kyung Bin. The group disbanded in 2002, citing personal reasons.
6. DJ Tukutz’s Rave and Radio Days
DJ Tukutz may be a father now, but he had his wild days. He first got into DJ-ing in the summer of 1995 by spinning records at local raves and warehouse parties in Japan. After he graduated from Technics DJ School, Tukutz teamed up with Tablo and headed to the States, where he DJ-ed for radio shows, live events and clubs around the New York metropolitan area.
7. Tablo was featured in Rain’s song, “I’m Coming”
Over the past 12 years, Tablo has collaborated with several Korean artists, including Clazziquai, Verbal Jint, Younha, Taeyang and Xia Junsu. But my favorite Tablo collab track has to be Rain’s 2006 hit song “I’m Coming.” His rap is edited out in Rain’s music video and live performances, but you can hear it in the actual track.
8. Tablo’s Stanford Controversy
In mid-2010, a group of anti-fans accused Tablo of fabricating his Stanford credentials. At the time, South Korea was reeling from a string of fake diploma scandals, and an online forum called “TaJinYo,” an abbreviation for the Korean phrase “Tell the truth, Tablo,” fired a vicious smear campaign against the rapper.
A few months later, the police contacted Stanford and confirmed that Tablo did indeed graduate from the university. TaJinYo’s leader, identified under the username “WhatsBecomes,” was arrested and the online forum was sued by Tablo for criminal defamation. You can read more about the controversy in KoreAm‘s September 2010 issue.
9. Government attempts to ban songs from Remapping the Soul
For their fourth album Remapping the Human Soul, Epik High committed to the “no genre, just music” style, which led some songs in the album to be much darker and address mature issues, including sexual crimes, war, religion and politics. These songs were censored by several broadcasting stations. At one point, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism even attempted to stop radio airplay, Tablo said in an interview with the Korea Times.
10. Epik High heads a sub-label under YG Enterainment
Earlier this month, Epik High announced that it will run a new sub-label titled, “High Ground” under YG Entertainment. While many fans initially believed that the new label would cater to the underground hip-hop artists, Tablo clarified during his radio show that High Ground would embrace all genres and cast musicians from diverse backgrounds.