Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I went into the Keith Ape concert super intrigued but probably not for the reason a musician would want a music writer to be interested. Of course, like many who listen to Korean music, especially those of us who listen to Korean hip hop, I had seen the music video for the song ‘잊지마 (It G Ma)’ featuring JayAllDay, Loota, Okasian & Kohh (and read a bit of the resulting controversy). So I would have been curious to see Keith Ape live regardless. But it was reading a quote in a recent article in Complex, where he says that “Korean rap, it sucks. Bad.” How could I not go see the dude live?
So what was the Toronto show like?
The doors opened a bit late (not unusual for a show) and the crowd walked into DJ Cyber69 spinning before the opening act, CMDWN, came on. He appeared to play a set before the opening act but I was let in early as press so that might have clouded my judgement of how long it was. The opening act, CMDWN, quickly pumped up the crowd with their set before a slightly overlong break during which Cyber69 spun some more tunes. Not that the dude was a bad DJ, if it was a night out dancing I would have been happy as I liked his tunes, but it cooled things down a tad. Ultimately, it didn’t matter because as soon as Keith Ape and his squad came on, the crowd went nuts.
I’ve been going to concerts for years – everything from small clubs to giant arenas to festivals of all kinds and watched performances in pretty much every genre, from pop to hip hop to thrash metal – and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much energy in a crowd outside of a mosh pit (and it’s been years since I’ve been in one of those). More than anything, that was my lasting impression of the night, the shear energy that Keith Ape inspired in the crowd.
Those in the main section of the club – there appeared to be a VIP section to the right which was much less populated and crazy – spent the entire performance straining to get closer to Keith Ape. I love feeling the energy of the crowd but had to escape midway through his set to the VIP section beside me. The crowd was surging and pushing so much towards the stage and Keith Ape that I felt like I was in a mosh pit (no joke). Nothing wrong with that except it makes it very, very difficult to take pictures. Don’t believe me, Keith Ape even lost a shoe crowd surfing.
Speaking of Keith Ape, dude is one hell of a performer, he definitely played up one of the most hyped up crowds I’ve seen in ages, catering to them and hyping them up (not that they needed the help). Performing some new, unreleased songs as he’s apparently working on a new EP, he treated the crowd, with the help of two members of his squad, to a full night of music. And of course, he closed with It G Ma (잊지마)… twice.
Who knew you could fit that many people on a stage? For the finale, it appeared that the entire CMDWN crew and pretty much anyone involved in the show joined Keith Ape and his squad on stage which was interesting. Speaking of his squad, one of them, Gold Gudda, impressed me enough to check him out on Soundcloud. Give him a listen! Although probably not at work…
But it wasn’t all music and crowd craziness, Keith Ape addressed the crowd a couple of times, most notably when he said “I don’t speak English but Underwater Six!” which flowed into the hashtag he was using for Toronto on Twitter and Instagram, #underwatersix. The audience ate it up! Dude had them in his pocket.
While I could have done without all the jostling (man, maybe I’m getting old), there’s no denying that Keith Ape owned the stage and the audience. From the moment he appeared the crowd went crazy and it never let up. I’ll be the first to admit that worrying over blurry photos (from being constantly jostled) did cloud my enjoyment of the first half of Keith Ape’s performance but once I escaped the crowd; it was a fun, super high-energy show. Not the best I’ve seen recently but solid and definitely the craziest.
I still think dissing the entire Korean hip hop scene in a major publication wasn’t the best move – although it certainly got people talking and perhaps that was the point (it also earned him a diss track from TakeOne) – but since it got me more interested in attending his show (and I’m sure I’m wasn’t the only one influenced by it or the curiosity it inspired), perhaps it was/is worth all the flack he’s taking on it. His presence onstage lived up to the hype and it will be interesting to see what he does next.
Did you see the Keith Ape show? What did you think?