This is a public service announcement: “B.B. Kings Bar and Grill, located in the Times Square area of New York City, has been shutdown! Korean rapper, Verbal Jint and his crew have ‘raised the roof’, ‘thrown it down’ and ‘set in off’”. Okay, a bit of an overstatement, but what happened there on the night of May 22, 2014 was extraordinary, to say the least.
It was a night of some of the best Korean hip-hop that exists today. Verbal Jint, Bumkey, Kanto, and Hwayoung, preeminent artists who’ve emerge from the underground music scene in Korea, entertained a diverse crowd of Asian heritage, black, and white folks at the underground concert hall. The openers for their tremendous performances, were two Asian-American rappers, Danny Chung and Rekstizzy.
Rekstizzy’s performance was energetic and hyper. He emerged on stage spraying water from his mouth, water bottle in hand. His performance and lyrical delivery was passionate, enough so that he twice tried crowd surfing, unsuccessfully. Each time leaping into the audience, which was not the best idea since the audience was filled with young ladies.
Danny Chung, the rapper formerly known as Decipher and Ailee’s adopted big brother, came on stage with his soulful rapping and mellow delivery. Home crowd favorite and native of Philadelphia, Danny pranced around stage in his camel Timberlands.
Good.Mo.Music spoke briefly with Danny after the show, and he explained the reason he reversed his stage name. He said it was a gradual transformation that occurred over 10 years as became “more comfortable in his own skin”.
Next up on the much-anticipated line-up was Bumkey, an RnB crooner with an extraordinary high-pitched falsetto. He put on a show that had the crowd screaming and waving excitedly. He performed a medley of his songs including “Beautiful Girl”. The highlight of his performance came when he told the crowd “let’s take it back old school, but not too old.” He then performed covers of Usher’s “You Got it Bad”, Blackstreet Boys “No Diggity”, and Neyo’s “So Sick”.
Before this super-medley of RnB old school favorites, Bumkey stopped the music, picked out the hand of a girl in the front row, held it, and politely asked “can I sing to you.” A superfluous request; nonetheless he performed a surgical seduction, a cappella on the hapless girl.
Speaking to the audience afterwards, Bumkey shared that his lifetime jam was “Love” by Musiq Soulchild. He then rendered a perfect-pitch cover of the song, in flawless English.
With one word… No, one name, Bumkey “turned out” the crowd with “Kanto”. He introduced the 19 year-old rapper, who bounced unto the stage, and the crowd went into a frenzy. Bumkey and Kanto then gave a vigorous performance of crowd hits like “Gat No Lae” and “Attraction”.
To demonstrate that the young rapper was not just all hype, Bumkey turned off the music and had Kanto do a little freestyling. Bumkey and Kanto are members of the new group “Troy”, who debuted in March, 2014 under the “Brand New Music” label. They threw “Troy” tee-shirts into the audience to screaming and surging fans.
“I want you to do me a big favor.” Bumkey said to the indefatigable crowd. “It’s his birthday today. Let’s sing ‘happy birthday’ to him.” After the audience had sung their hearts out, Bumkey led them in a chant of “Kanto, Kanto, Kanto…”. “How do you feel?” Bumkey asked him. “It’s such a blessing for me to be here.” Kanto then continued, on meeting Brian McKnight after his recently concluded tour of South Korea. He said just like Brian McKnight has been a good influence on him, his desire is also “to be a good influence to you”, Kanto told the thrilled crowd. At this, they performed a song Kanto said changed his life, “Bad Girl”.
Wrapping up their performance, Bumkey alone performed recent RnB hits like “Get Lucky” and “Happy”, both by Pharrell.
Without much ado, a gentleman in a comfortable grey t-shirt, black jeans and light grey sneakers strolled unto the stage, and immediately commandeered the up-till-that-point unattended keyboard. The crowd erupted, when it dawned on them it was Verbal Jint.
On the Keyboard, Verbal started off by doing a “PG” remix of Kendrick Lamar’s “Please don’t kill my vibe.” His sidekick, Hwayoung then joined him on stage and together they performed tracks from Verbal’s most recent albums, “Go Easy” and “Ten Years of Misinterpretation”. Such as, “Good Morning”, Positivity” and “You Look Good.”
Verbal Jint then, alone, took the crowd way back to some of his earlier hits, released since his debut in 2001. Kanto came out briefly, to help out. But then lingered a little too long afterwards on stage. Enough to elicit a “what’s up” look from Verbal. As Kanto said “bye-bye” to the audience and left the stage, he got a “your time will come” smile from Verbal.
Then Verbal did an a cappella rap. He explained afterwards that he was rapping about his personal transformation, from having nothing, and the struggles he endured, to being where he is today. At this, Verbal Jint led a call-and-response chant with the crowd, each time eliciting from them a loud “tala.” After which came a ferocious performance.
Verbal Jint announced he will be releasing a new album called “Go Hard,” a follow up to his “Go Easy” album released in 2012. Apparently, the album release date had been postponed as a result of the tragic Sewol accident. It is rumored to be released in June, 2014.
To end the concert, Verbal Jint performed the single song the entire audience had patiently waited three hours to hear, “You deserved Better”.
With an empty stage, the forlorn crowd began making theIr way towards the exit. And then, out bounded Verbal Jint and Bumkey back on stage, for one last roof-raising hurrah.
After the concert Good.Mo.Music had an exclusive moment with Verbal Jint and Bumkey in their dressing room. Verbal explained to us why his last two albums have a lot of collaborations in them, and they both told us with whom they would like to collab with next, and why.
Given his intensely disciplined, focused and minimalist style, he told us which American artists inspire him the most. Did you know Verbal Jint used to be part of a rock band?!
With a rapping style reminiscent of the nineties, we asked which style of American hip-hop, East Coast or West Coast has influenced K-hip-hop the most? And, Bumkey gave a most perspicacious answer.
Look out for our interview with Verbal Jint and Bumkey, done in collaboration with KpopStarz.com.