I have been to a lot of concerts in my day. I mean a ridiculous amount. One important lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t really go into the important ones with lots of expectations. If you think you’re going to have the night of your life, you will be disappointed. No one, not even your bias group can live up to that kind of pressure. But to be entirely honest, having no expectations when you’re going to see one of your strongest contenders for UB with two of the coolest kids in your Kpop circle, is nearly impossible.
This weekend I had the good fortune (both luck and cash flow) to travel to LA to see the second night of the 1llionaire Ambition US tour. For those that follow the Korean underground, you’ll know that 1llionaire and Ambition Musik are two of the biggest hip hop crews out of South Korea. This tour is the first time that the two have sent rappers to perform joint shows together in the US. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is the first time that the Ambition boys have even come to the US to perform at all. My goodness, it was a magical evening at the Belasco Theater. I’m going to share my impressions and Stephanie is going to share her photos for your viewing pleasure.
Stephanie, Molly, and I, as part of a girls weekend (exciting recap to be shared later), queued up for the show at 4:30 in the evening…One wouldn’t think you’d need to line up that early for a small hip hop show, but we did. Because doors opened at 5:00 p.m. Because the show started at 6:00 p.m. I kid you not, the show was from 6:00-8:00. We could have caught another whole concert the same evening and still gotten to bed at a decent hour. And going to bed at a decent hour is super important for us because, judging by the crowd, we are way too old to be attending hip hop shows. Korean or any other kind. We were clearly blowing the bell curve for age at this one.
We were also, shall we say, some of the very palest in the audience. We are estimating that we made up three of the maybe seven white people in attendance. It was awesome. Initially I had a tiny twinge of the dreaded high school nightmare of ‘not really fitting in,’ but once the music started, it really didn’t matter. We were all there for the same reason and we were all dancing and throwing our arms in exactly the same way as we sang along.
The show started with each of the five rappers performing 3-4 solo songs with some minor collaborations serving to transition between some of the artists. Hash Swan opened the gig with his gray and red turtleneck sweater and his high, nasal voice. I love that man. He is delightfully tiny and looks just the littlest bit shocked to be wherever he is at all times, but when he’s performing, he takes over the stage. I know I can hardly take my eyes off of him. I’ve always said that though I’m not in love with him, I’d date his voice in heartbeat. He was amazing and I’m pretty sure Molly transitioned from ‘I kind of know of his existence’ to ‘die hard fan’ as soon as he walked onto the stage. I included his song Ma$himaro on the play list a couple of weeks ago and he performed it at the show…it was a definite highlight.
Keem Hyoeun (or Kim Hyoeun depending on where you are searching for him) came out second. He’s typically the one with the terribly questionable braids in his hair and a much heavier and faster rap style than the others. His locks were freshly washed and loose last night, hanging in his eyes in a super sexy way, and he hit it out of the ball park with his music. I’m not as familiar with his solo stuff as I have found those tracks in limited supply on itunes and Youtube thus far, but he was fantastic. He wrapped up his small section performing the song LA LA LA and, of course, Changmo came out and did his part to the absolute delight of the entire crowd. It was clear that most of the girls were there for our dear autotune addict.
Changmo was extremely engaging. That man knows how to work a crow, particularly a crowd of women.
He flirted so hard with everyone, I’m pretty sure half of us are pregnant. It was like no matter where he was looking, he was looking directly at you. Everytime he flipped us the middle finger, it was really an invitation. He even dedicated a song to all of the beautiful women in the audience. I’m positive he meant me…Stephanie and Molly would say the same. His performance of Maestro was somewhat unexpected as it’s an older song, but it was pure, unadulterated perfection. Though I love Hash Swan and Keem Hyoeun and like Dok2 and the Quiett, THIS was the reason I flew across the country for a two hour show.
The Quiett and Dok2, the owners and bosses of 1llionaire, did their solo stages next. These two are extremely solid and consistent performers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they are one trick ponies that don’t mix up their styles or song types much at all. But I do love that one trick.
I rarely, if ever, put on one of their albums, and prefer to listen to them as part of collaborations either with other rappers or with vocalists. Dok2 is one half of my favorite song of 2015, Parachute. Seeing them both live was fantastic, but I think the ladies both agree with me that the Ambition side of the house was much more dynamic than the 1llionaire.
The evening wrapped up with song after song involving all five of the rappers. The did both One More Rollie and Inkigayo, much to our absolute pleasure, as well as a number of other songs I was pretty sure they’d pull out since they were released as collaborations that included varying combinations of them to some degree or another. The sound quality was great…I wasn’t completely deaf when the show ended, but my ears a still a little fuzzy today. The visuals in the background were big, bright, and bold with lots of swirling smoke and water and the requisite math equations. I say requisite tongue in cheek…that was beautiful, but odd. They also flashed the names of the performers on the screen as they performed their solos – I assume with the expectation that Americans aren’t as familiar with who they all were. Fools.
So, while I worked to keep my expectations to a minimum as much as humanly possible, I of course went to the show secretly sure that it would be one of the best concerts I’ve attended this year. Proving my life lesson completely incorrect, the show absolutely lived up to everything I wanted it to be. The venue was small, we couldn’t help but be close. Everyone was ON and hit the songs hard. Changmo flirted and connected with everyone and Hash Swan, though wilting by the end in his thick sweater, was magnetic. I fell just a little bit in love with Keem Hyoeun, and I felt incredibly lucky to see Dok2 and The Quiett in real life. They are no different than in their MVs. I swear.
Thank you, thank you, thank you 1llionaire Ambition. That was the best night I’ve had in a long, long time.