It wasn’t until the past couple years that Korean hip-hop acts began performing in the U.S., so it was a pleasure to experience Korean hip-hop in New York City this past November as a part of AOMG‘s U.S. tour. AOMG is a new record label parented by Jay Park and Simon D. and includes Gray, Loco, and DJ Pumkin. Each member brought a different persona and musical style to the table, making for quite the fun concert.

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The majority of the music at the concert was your standard hip-hop fare and not particularly memorable, but the powerful stage presences of the performers (which shone through despite their jet lag) made up for it.

The show started on a rough note with an hour-long delay, but the audience managed to maintain their explosive enthusiasm every second of the way. And oh how they cheered when the first performers, Loco and Gray, walked on stage.

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The two were a magical onstage couple. They both had a fresh, youthful energy and fed off of each other well. They were cheery towards the audience and performed their music wholeheartedly.

Most of the tracks they performed were high-energy duets, such as “Hold Me Tight,” “Dangerous,” and “In My Head.” The songs weren’t groundbreaking, but they were stylish, sleek, and well-performed. (And speaking of style, I loved how Gray chose to defy the snapback with this grandma-esque sunhat.)

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Then Simon D. and his ego rolled out onto the stage, and the building shook with fan girl screams.

Basking in it.

Basking in it.

Since he was so on point with his performance, I was able to excuse Simon D.’s oh-so-narcissistic persona. His flow was top-notch and sizzled with that Busan dialect swag. He performed his old-school jams – “Stay Cool,” “Cheerz,” and “Where U At” – and then milked his bravado with standard hip-hop tracks such as “Money Don’t Lie,” “Bounce,” “Simon Dominic,” and a virtuosic freestyle, which was the highlight of the show for me. I would have loved to hear more of his quirky beats from his solo album, SNL League Begins, though.

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Jay Park was definitely the most affected by jet lag; he started his set rather pitchy and begrudged. But as time went on, he began to wake up. When he started dancing, the energy really seemed to flow out of him. His mix of R&B, rap, and dance added nice variety to the concert. At the beginning of his set he was working a tacky outfit and a travesty of a hat. But as expected of Jay Park, he didn’t stay clothed for very long. I got the sense that his performance enthusiasm and the amount of clothes he was wearing were inversely related.

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The show ended with a group performance of “Metronome” and “I Like to Party.” It was a blast to see the performers interact with each other like they were throwing an onstage party.

Overall, everybody’s set was just the right amount of time so that they left you wanting more.  The concert didn’t feel too long or too short, so that I was still having as much fun in the encore/final set as I was in the opening act. I enjoyed the contrast of each performers’ energies; Loco and Gray were bouncy, Simon D. was egotistical, and Jay was a smarmy player. Nothing about the concert was groundbreaking, but it was fun. And sometimes that’s all you need from a hip-hop concert.

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A composer of music myself who has been inspired by Korean indie music for many years, specifically rock, electronic, and experimental music.