Korean hip-hop artists rarely, if ever, come to the States. Those that could did so for vacation or work, but didn’t play venues while here. Numerous factors contribute to this, from management infrastructure, obtaining visas, and, above all, money.

Big name acts make it happen because of the well-funded labels behind them, and Seoulsonic’s behind-the-scenes people aid in getting indie artists across the International Dateline. Having those structures in place makes it easier to tour globally, as opposed to the “world” tours that concentrate on Southeast Asia. Asian Music Festival hopes to facilitate that with its series of Korean hip-hop shows.


One thing not missing from these shows? Fans. Like packs of starving dogs, they come in droves, lining up for hours outside venues to get more out of the acts they love than just the music they consume.

This was especially true for me at the Illionaire Records show last weekend at the BB King’s in NYC. A show postponed from its original date due to visa issues, this was a highly anticipated show and it showed. This was AMF’s second show in the series, but mismanagement was on full display, from two lines in different directions, VIP ticket holders not getting what was advertised, and a show that didn’t start well past its supposed start time. These problems are endemic to many Korean shows I’ve been to or heard of, and touring companies need to do a better job of fans’ time and money in future events.

All that aside, the show was not about AMF or the Siva Group, but Beenzino, Dok2, and The Quiett, who started the show with “We Here” and “11:11” from their recent record, 11:11, and after the long waiting, we ate it up. Thank goodness for the sound system at BB King’s, because the music was loud, but bearable.

My biggest issue with hip-hop shows is how exaggerated the bass is from the start, drowning out the vocals and the higher end of the tracks, but BB King’s struck the right balance. The trio included some of their recent hits, like “2 Chainz & Rollies,” “Profile,” and “I’m 1LL;” they even went back to The Quiett’s “Be My Luv” and Beenzino’s “Aqua Man.” The show was a blast, with the guys putting on a killer set that kept everyone dancing, jumping and hollering like lunatics.

As their biggest hit yet, “YGGR” was included, obviously. Here’s the kicker: the encore was a full reprise of the song, twice. Yup, considering their extensive catalog of music, alone and together, Illionaire decided that what we wanted was to hear “YGGR” a second and third time. Really, guys? I love them, but this was ridiculous, not to mention lazy. Even Dok2 put his microphone the third time around! That such a good show was book-ended with bad choices left a bad taste in my mouth, which is a shame.

Ultimately, the show was fun, but too many things went wrong that night for me to be enthusiastic about the concert. Hopefully AMF’s next show will be better.

Contributed to McRoth’s Residence with a focus on Korean indie and hip-hop music.