They call him Korea’s number one club DJ, but to Jeon Sang Yup (DJ Yup), that is nothing but a minuscule title. The decade-plus veteran of the DJ scene has performed at massively popular venues all over the world, collaborated with trendy and well-known K-pop artists, and has accumulated not only a highly dedicated domestic fan following, but also an international following that spans the globe. With fans from countries like Japan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the US, DJ Yup has become a widely sought after fan favorite at clubs the world over.
We at hellokpop, recently sat down with DJ Yup in Washington, D.C., before his very first performance in the city, to discuss how he got into the business, how the club scenes differ between the U.S. and Korea, how the PSY Phenomenon has affected the outlook on Korean artists, and what it was like working with Brian Joo from Fly To The Sky.
My shows are like my life, LIVE!
We first met up with DJ Yup and his good friend, translator and MC, Tony Henderson (Crazy T), at their hotel in Hanover, Maryland early in the day. After an impromptu photo shoot, several hours of casual conversation, and getting to know one another personally, we sat down together in their hotel room for a fun talk that felt more like “two friends catching up,” than it did an official interview.
Could you tell us a little about what made you want to be a DJ?
[DJ Yup] ”As I was growing up, I was always been in to music–mostly old school Hip-Hop and rap. I used to get recordings of music videos on VHS tape and watch them secretly. I have cousins that live in the States, and they would send me tapes to listen to. I’d watch MTV, record it, and listen to them over and over and over.”
His love of music is what compelled him to start a career in the field. When he was twenty, he started DJing in Korea under the tutelage of seasoned DJ’s. While he was learning the trade, DJ Yup worked long hours for little or no pay. He was content with just learning.
[DJ Yup] “Korean clubs close at six in the morning. So, I would be there at 8 p.m., setting, and finish up around six. I did that for almost a year without any pay. It was hard, but I learned a lot.”
What is it about DJing you like the most?
[DJ Yup] “When you become one with the crowd and the crowd becomes one with you. It feels great. When I throw my hands up, the crowd does the same. We become in tune with one another. It’s beautiful.”
When you DJ, do you have a set list, or do you just make it up as you go along?
[DJ Yup] “Some DJ’s make a playlist beforehand, but I don’t. It’s live. A playlist is a good thing sometimes–it’s safe. But for me, free-styling is more exciting. My shows are like my life, live!”
Do you think the art of live DJing is more popular in Korea or in the US?
[DJ Yup] “It’s very popular in Korea. One thing is different though. In Korea, DJ’s only DJ. When I’m asked what I do for work, and I answer “I’m a DJ,” eighty-percent of people ask me why. In the States, if you’re good at something, people give you credit and respect. So, I don’t get that question.”
What are the latest trends in Korea when it comes to live DJing?
[DJ Yup] ” Electronic music is really hot right now in Korea. Korean DJ’s don’t usually play Korean music, but remixing Korean songs has become very popular now also.”
How has the DJ scene changed in the last five years or so?
[DJ Yup] “Hip-hop was very popular five years ago, but right now electronic music is in. Hip-hop DJ’s are hungry right now. They can’t spin big festivals or clubs, only smaller ones, because of EDM‘s (Electronic Dance Music) popularity. A lot of DJ’s change their music to fit trends, but with me, I play everything, because it’s the music that I like.”
We wondered how the explosion of PSY’s Gangnam Style and its global popularity has affected the DJing scenes both domestically and globally. So, we asked DJ Yup what he thought about the “PSY Phenomenon.”
[DJ Yup] ” We give thanks to PSY for being that first person to open that door, to give Korean artists the opportunity to become ‘known.’ He showed the whole world what we can do. He did it. He made it happen.”
We were curious as to how the views on nationality and race have changed since PSY’s historic rise to global fame. Music transcends all barriers of ethnicity, nationality and language, and has become a place where people from all walks of life intermingle happily together. However, Korean artists, unfortunately, still find that they are being discriminated against due to their nationality, and they are not always received with open arms. We asked DJ Yup how he handles these types of situations.
[DJ Yup] “I get it sometimes, but I don’t sweat it. The funny thing is, I usually just smile at them when I get comments like that and just show them what I can do. Afterwards, they become a fan and want to friend me on Facebook. [laughs]“
After discussing such a serious topic, we wanted to delve into something a little more fun and lighthearted. We asked DJ Yup about his experiences working with Brian Joo and sought out the answer to the burning question, “What is Brian really like?”
In 2011, You were the opening DJ for Brian Joo’s Unveiled Tour in the US. How was is like working with him on the tour? What is Brian really like in person, and would you be willing to work with him again in the future?
[DJ Yup] “Brian and I have a good relationship, so I asked him if I could be his opening DJ and he said yes. We toured together. It was great, and that’s how I met IAMMEDIC and New Heights as well. Brian is a very nice and kind person. He takes very good care of his family and works really hard. He’s a very private person by nature, and even though we respect each other’s privacy, he and I are always there to talk if one of us needs to. He’s a very humble person and I respect that a lot. As for working with him again, I’d love to.”
We then turned our attention onto the fans. While every fan is different, and subsequently, every fan of a specific genre is also different, we wanted to discuss with DJ Yup what his fans are like and how they treat him around the world.
How does your experience with fans differ between Korea and America when you’re performing? Do fans treat you differently here than the fans treat you in Korea?
[DJ Yup] “Yes. The crowds are different. American clubs are smaller than Korean clubs. The bigger the club, the harder to get into. In Korea, crowds come for the show and leave right after, where as American crowds stay around outside waiting to meet me and thank me for the show. They want to get to know me better.”
[Crazy T] “People in America are more free-spirited and friendly.”
You have garnered a substantial amount of fans worldwide with your tours, performances, and collaborations. How does it feel to have so many fans, and what are some of the things you do to show your appreciation to them?
[DJ Yup] “It’s great. I just try to keep traveling to different countries, like the Philippines, Japan, China, for the fans. Promoters sometimes don’t even have the money to pay for my plane ticket, but I come anyway. I pay for it myself, so I can perform for the fans. I really like to meet new people.”
As our interview was nearing its close, we talked a little bit about the night’s upcoming performance. DJ Yup and Crazy T told several fun stories about their time as friends, but when it came to the final question of our interview, we were in for quite an interesting answer, as Crazy T volunteered to field the question first.
How does it feel to be considered/labeled Korea’s #1 DJ?
[Crazy T] “Can I answer this question? Working with DJ Yup, he always finds ways to improve himself. Even though people label him as the number one DJ from Korea, to him its just a title. In his mindset, there are a lot more DJ’s in Korea better than him. So, when he’s given that title, he really just brushes it off, because to him, he’s still not at the level that he wants to be yet. He’s always learning.”
[DJ Yup] “Unlike many DJ’s that spend their pay on clothes and things, I invest it back into myself. I travel a lot for shows, and oftentimes pay for the trips myself. I pay to market myself. I am very confident in my DJing skills, but I want to continue to improve as time goes on. DJing is my life and I never want to stop.”
DJ Yup recently released his first single, A-Bomb, with Soulte and Crazy-T. The single became available for download on both Junodownload and Beatport earlier this week. He is currently shooting the music video for the track.
We at hellokpop would like to thank DJ Yup, Crazy T, and their crew for giving us the opportunity to meet and work with them, and for their much appreciated hospitality. We look forward to watching your careers with great interest and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Check out our gallery below for some of our shots from the photoshoot along with photos taken during the performance at Capitale DC, in Washington, DC.
Galaxy Express, Apollo 18, Goonamguayeoridingstella (Goonam), Gate Flowers: four groups at the forefront of the blooming Korean rock scene. They visit the UK, home of rock music which gave birth to so many icons – from the Beatles to David Bowie, Led Zeppelin to Dire Straits, Oasis to the Libertines, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Smiths and so many more. One can wonder what Korea’s got to offer to a genre past its prime, though still very much alive and kicking. The Korea Rocks Tour, sponsored by Hyundai Music Card, gave it a firm answer this Wednesday night in the So-British city of Tunbridge Wells: ebullient, skillful, inventive, raw, loud, energetic, saturnine, jaw-dropping. The Korea Rocks tour brings rock music back to its roots; “the only thing that matters is music“, I found each and every group vitally claiming at some point in their respective interviews.
The line-up is very strong and also very eclectic. Each group plays a different kind of rock with undeniable common points: enthusiasm and quality. Gate Flowers stuns by the richness of their sound and the depth of their skills that sends you back in the days where virtuosos were revered; Goonam combines dance traditions with psychedelic rhythms and electric fun that puts a dreamlike smile on your face; Apollo 18 stands as loud stumping rock that leaves your ears ringing and your head shaking with amazement; Galaxy Express hits the stage with stunning looks, rock star charisma and explosive talent that leaves you to believe you might have just witnessed history in the making.
It doesn’t matter who they are and where they come from. These are down to earth musicians, living the dream, being exactly where they want to be, playing the music they want to play. Sitting down for over two hours of interviews with each group, I could measure the bands’ common passion about their own music and the other acts on the tour, their heart-warming affability, and their eagerness to kick off this tour in such fashion. It didn’t matter that there were more staff than local spectators within the audience tonight. Each group played hard and endearingly, and special mention is due to a transcended Goonam who were seen jumping off the stage to perform a full song within the audience on a couple of occasions.
The Korea Rocks Tour will hit the UK scenes on six more occasions:
April 26: Wrexham, Wales at The Bank (Focus Wales)
April 27: Wrexham, Wales at Yales Café Bar (Focus Wales)
April 28: London, England at Barfly
May 1: Manchester, England at Night & Day Café
May 3: Liverpool, England at Studio 2 (Liverpool Sound City)
May 4: Liverpool, England at Kazimier Gardens (Liverpool Sound City)
Remember, the shows are for free except for the festivals joined in Liverpool and Wrexham. hellokpop had the pleasure of conducting a personal, in-depth interview with each group that will be published throughout the tour, so stay tuned to hellokpop for more Korean rock and attend the free shows if you’re nearby. Korea rocks – it’s not just a gimmick, it’s true!
Meanwhile here’s a little present for our followers and fellow rock fans, an exclusive cover of the Rolling Stones‘ Paint It Black by Gate Flowers. Enjoy!
Check out our gallery bellow for more shots from the show!
hellokpop would like to thank Gate Flowers, Galaxy Express, Goonam, Apollo 18, Shawn Despres (tour manager) and Hyundai Music Card for inviting us to the Korea Rocks Tour and we wish them the best of luck in making this promotional tour a success!
You can read the following related stories from the Korea Rocks Tour at Tunbridge Wells:
- Interview with Galaxy Express
- Interview with Goonam
- Interview with Apollo 18
- Interview with Gate Flowers
Source: Coverage provided by Marty M.
PR/Technical Assistance provided by email@example.com
Sharp and wild. Perfect dance moves that awe K-pop fans are no longer bound by Korean artists themselves.
With the influence of the Korean wave in recent years, K-pop fans have seen an increase of non-Korean YouTube dance artists who are also fans themselves. They rise from everywhere around the world and showcase their dancing talents on their own YouTube channels.
In one of our recent editorials, hellokpop‘s Nini talked about dance choreography, ran through facts on why dance is an important element, and explained how dance has drawn fans to the K-pop phenomenon. An academic research study conducted by hellokpop’s Crystal last year also revealed that dance choreography does, indeed, play a major role in the appeal of K-pop. These two articles clearly point to how influential the dance factor can be in K-pop.
So, what happens when these K-pop dance cover artists combine their passion for dancing and K-pop? Amazing things.
Here we bring you the top 10 most influential K-pop dance cover artists who have successfully made a name for themselves on YouTube by harnessing the power of their passion for K-pop dance.
Darren is our favourite boy, whom we have known from the days when he started to cover K-pop dances. He is a dancing machine, and if you reside in Australia, do check out his Facebook page for dance workshops that he frequently conducts.
9. NOVOLUM TeVe
What is more awesome than knowing how far K-pop has reached, all the way to Mexico. You have to watch these guys. Swag.
These seven beautiful Russian girls called themselves Inspirit. They have been active since 2011 and have won awards in major contests.
7. Brian and Daniel Zhou
Brothers Brian and Daniel cover K-pop dances because they love to dance and have an affinity for K-pop. They also upload helpful tutorials for fans to learn how to dance too.
Check out their dance cover of Nu’est’s Hello, which has also helped them to came in first place in Loen dance competition, Let’s Dance Nu’est.
6. Cindy Zhang
A dancing girl from Canada, Cindy is inspired by 4Minute’s Hyuna.
Henry and Miles are twins who like to dance a lot, and they are really popular.
4. Secciya Ying Ying
Ying Ying is a dancer that learns from the young and also owns her own dance studio. Apart from her rich experience and exposure in the field, she was also one of the back dancers for G.Na during one of her concerts in 2011. Get mesmerized by her dancing talents.
Yet another dancing twin duo, Nicolas and Colin joined in the K-pop dance cover scene in 2010. They also have their own fan club named Cloud9. Fans and supporters are called Raindrops.
Kaotsun is definitely one of the most influential dance cover artists on social media, particularly with fans and supporters in Asia and Australia. She has also won several dance competitions.
NS Yoon G & Jay Park – If you love me
According to the number of views and subscribers on YouTube, St.319 is the most influential and leading K-pop dance artists on social media. The group hails from Hanoi, Vietnam, and has won a number of accolades, including from the top three entertainment agencies in South Korea–SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. They have their own fan club, which is called IOWA.
To read more about St.319, click here - Uncovering St.319, the K-pop dance cover group from Vietnam
Offical Facebook page: st319dance
Fanclub Facebook page: IOWA
After reading and watching these 10 K-pop dance cover artists, I am sure you have become impressed by their talents and understand why some K-pop fans really love and support them.
During our recent interview with Tyrone “Niddy” Buckner, head of Billboard Entertainment Group LLC and freelance Co-Producer/A&R for C-JES Entertainment, he said this: “…. That’s why I love K-Pop fans. They’ve embraced me. They tell me about their dreams, hopes, stories, aspirations, what they love about K-Pop, what they want to see happen in K-Pop, what they’re willing to do to make it happen. They are active themselves ….” – U.S. A&R Exec signs African-American K-pop artist and reveals ‘true’ side of JYJ
Believe me or not, that’s going to be what happens. K-pop fans are making all the difference right now.
The next future big thing in K-pop is going to be K-pop fans themselves, and if you are a K-pop fan, I am talking about you too.
Korea Rocks is set to invade the UK with tour, and an all-exclusive interview with Park JongHyun of Galaxy Express, Kim DaeInn of Apollo 18, and Yeom SeungShik of Gate Flowers, to open up about the upcoming tour.
Presented by Hyundai Card Music, Korea Rocks has announced that it will be holding a tour in the United Kingdom in late April.
While Korean rock music doesn’t quite have the international following as Kpop has amassed over the years, the genre has become popular with Kpop fans worldwide. The tour will headline some of Korea’s most influential and well-loved rock bands and will hit seven venues from April 24 to May 4.
Our good friends Galaxy Express and Apollo 18 will be joined by highly impressive rock bands, Goonamguayeoridingstella (Goonam) and Gate Flowers, and are poised to bring one of the most explosive and high octane K-rock performances ever seen in the UK. The groups will not only be performing at two of the UK’s highly popular music festivals, Focus Wales and Liverpool Sound City, but will also perform three free club shows during the tour.
Check out the tour schedule below:
- April 24: Kent, England at Tunbridge Wells Forum
- April 26: Wrexham, Wales at The Bank (Focus Wales)
- April 27: Wrexham, Wales at Yales Café Bar (Focus Wales)
- April 28: London, England at Barfly
- May 1: Manchester, England at Night & Day Café
- May 3: Liverpool, England at Studio 2 (Liverpool Sound City)
- May 4: Liverpool, England at Kazimier Gardens (Liverpool Sound City)
Award winning South Korean rockers Galaxy Express was formed in Seoul in 2006. Members Park JongHyun (main vocals/guitar), Lee JuHyun (bassist/vocal) and Kim HeeKwon (drummer) bring to the stage with an infectious blend of high octane garage rock and punk, that wows the crowd with every note. Galaxy Express has released seven albums in total, one being a co-album with K-Indie superstars Crying Nut, and have garnered accolades such as winning the Best Rock Album in 2009 at the Korean Music Awards.
The group just concluded their third highly successful tour in the US, once again performing at major music festivals such as SXSW and The Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival. Galaxy Express recently released their new self titled album in late last November and is receiving high praise from fans all around the world. With their infection rhythm and explosive stage performance, Galaxy Express truly epitomizes their title of Kings of Korean Indie.
Formed in 2008, Apollo 18 blends a mix of post hardcore rock with screaming guitars and driving downbeats that just leaves the fans in awe. Members Choi HyunSeok (guitar/vocals), Kim DaeInn (base/vocal) and Lee SangYun (drummer) bring to the stage a performance like no other with a high adrenaline energy that is sure to suck you into the euphoric bliss of some of the best Korean rock on the planet.
Since their formation, Apollo 18 has released five albums, won awards such as Rookie of the Year at the Korean Music Awards, and have regularly graced the stages of some of the world most well-know music festivals such as the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, SXSW, Valley of the Vapors along with performances at Japan’s famed Fuji Rock Festival and Taiwan’s Beastie Rock Festival. Apollo 18 has been praised by numerous outlets during their career for producing some of the most exciting and intense rock stage performances in the world and are considered the rock band to watch if you’re looking for an amazing performance both vocally and musically.
With a eclectic mix of alternative and hard rock in their repertoire, Korean rockers Gate Flowers, are definitely one of the best Korean rock bands in the market to date with their Pearl Jam-esque sound. Lead singer, Park KeunHong, vocals draw you in with a melding of both a soulful groove and hard-rocker screams that are so impressive, you just can’t help but be enthralled.
Yeom SeungShik (guitarist), Ryu Jaein (bassist) and Yang Chongeun (drums), produce some of the most head-banging-ly addictive arrangements in the business to date. Gate Flowers’ ballads are definitely not something to overlook either, songs like Between the Leaves and Night Night (which was nominated for Best Rock Song in 2013), shows off the bands soulful and softer sides while still sticking to their alternative roots. Their talents have not gone unnoticed.
In 2010 Gate Flowers pulled in not only the government sponsored Hello Rookie prize for being the most promising new band in 2010, but also landed both Rookie of the Year and Best Rock Song at the Korean Music Awards in 2011. Gate Flowers’ participation in the 2013 Korea Rocks tour, will be the first time which the band will tour internationally and are sure to impress even the most wayward fan.
Known for their hard-to-nail down style, Goonamguayeoridingstella (Goonam) utilizes and combines a multitude of musical genres, to produce some of the most entertaining and unique songs in their field.
With influences of rock, blues, reggae, psychedelic and even dub-step all at their creative fingertips, Goonam members have solidify themselves as one of the hottest rock acts in today’s market. Goonam’s We Are Pure (2007) album placed on 100beat.com‘s Best Korean Albums of the 2000′s at number seventy and their Woojung-Motel album (2011) was nominated for Best Modern Rock album at the 2012 Korean Music Awards. Goonam has also hit the international stages at events like Japan’s Summer Sonic Festival, SXSW, and Canadian Music Week in Toronto.
Goonamguayeoridingstella is comprised of Joh Ung(guitarist/vocalist) and Eem ByungHak (basists) as the groups main members, with Park TaeSik (drummer) and Kim Naun (keyboardist) filling out the group for their live performances.
On the eve of their UK tour, we at hellokpop are really fortunate to be able to sit down with Park Jonghyun of Galaxy Express, Kim Daeinn of Apollo 18, and Yeom Seungshik of Gate Flowers, to discuss about their upcoming tour, what they hope to show the fans, how they feel about touring with each other, and what fans should expect.
*Goonam was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict.
With your upcoming tour in the UK just on the horizon, how do you feel about having the opportunity to perform there?
Park Jonghyun: “It’s going to be cool. We just finished up a month-long US tour and only have two weeks off before the start of the UK tour. I think Galaxy Express sound great right now after doing 26 shows in the States. So hopefully that will carry over to the UK concerts, too! This is our first time performing in the UK, so we’re excited to check everything out.”
Kim Daeinn: “Being able to share our songs with music lovers in different countries is always an awesome feeling. We’ve had so many great experiences during our past tours in Japan, the United States, Canada, and Taiwan. We can’t wait to head out on the road again and explore the UK and its music scene.”
Yeom Seungshik: ”We’re really happy about it! This will be our first international tour, so we’re really excited to show people what we can do. We admire how bands from the UK have helped shape the spirit and sound of rock ‘n’ roll, so it’s an honor to be able to play there.”
What should the fans expect at the concert?
Park Jonghyun: ”They should expect a great night of Korean indie music. There are a lot of really good bands playing in Korea’s indie scene right now. This is just a small sample of some of the talent in the scene. Hopefully we can all inspire people to check out more Korean music after watching Korea Rocks.”
Kim Daeinn: ”You can expect our shows to be loud. We’re so happy to meet everyone at the shows, but we want to try and burst their eardrums!”
Yeom Seungshik: ”They should expect to not stand still! We hope people enjoy and move around to the rock ‘n’ grooves we’ll be turning out for them.”
For those out there who are not familiar with your music styles, how would you describe it (in 3 words or less)?
Park Jonghyun: ”Wild, noisy, psychedelic.”
Kim Daeinn: ”Loud, noisy rock!”
Yeom Seungshik: ”Energy, groove, harmony.”
What are you looking forward to the most with this new tour?
Park Jonghyun: ”Meeting new people and seeing new things are always are the best things to do on tour. I hope to drink some good beer and eat fish and chips, too.”
Kim Daeinn: ”Getting to drink lots of good beer! The beer in Korea is not very good. But British beer is very tasty. I’m hoping we’ll have time to visit Stonehenge too. I’ve wanted to visit there for a long time, so it would be really cool to finally see it in person.”
Yeom Seungshik: ”We are looking forward to meeting new audiences and having a lot of fun together with them.”
How does it feel to be touring with the other groups in the lineup?
Park Jonghyun: ”It’s going to be like a big fun road trip with lots of our friends. We’re fans of all the bands on this tour and are happy to be able to gig abroad with them. We’ve been hoping to tour with Apollo 18 for a while now, so we’re excited to finally travel somewhere new with them. We always have a lot of fun with those guys. I’m a bit of a troublemaker sometimes and Apollo 18 can be too. Hopefully that will lead to some good tour stories that we can share later on!”
Kim Daeinn: ”I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re really good friends with Galaxy Express and have gigged with them a bunch of times in Seoul. Our musical styles are different, but I think we have a really strong impact when we’re paired together. We played at Jeju Island’s Stepping Stone festival in 2011 with Goonamguayeoridingstella and they were cool to hang out with. We don’t know Gate Flowers well yet, but we’re looking forward to experiencing some new things together with them in the UK.”
Yeom Seungshik: ”It feels awesome! We are going to tour with some of the greatest bands in Korea right now. We’re very excited to hang out and travel with all of them.”
Do you have any message you’d like to share with your fans in the UK?
Park Junghyun: ”Come get wild and have fun at our UK concerts with us. We’re traveling a long way to perform. Let’s all work together to make these gigs amazing nights!”
Kim Daeinn: ”Come watch the Korea Rocks shows! You’ll be very happy you did!”
Yeom Seungshik: ”We’ve waited a long time to be able to share our music with overseas listeners. We plan to make the most of this opportunity and can’t wait to play for you.”
For more information about Galaxy Express, Apollo 18, Goonam, and Gate Flowers, check out the videos and links below:
We at hellokpop would like to give a special shoutout to Galaxy Express, Apollo 18, Goonam, and Gate Flowers, to thank them for their sharing with us, and we wish them all the best with their UK tour.
Will you be attending the Korea Rocks tour? Which artist are looking forward to see the most?
Let us know in the comments below!
Info & Photos: Direct Correspondence, Korea Rocks
Exclusive: U.S. Artist and Repertoire Executive/Producer ‘Niddy’ talks about signing the first African-American K-Pop artist and opens up about working with JYJ.
When you talk to K-Pop fans in the U.S., their biggest complaint is usually centered around the lack of attention the genre gets in the mainstream music scene and how the aforementioned oversight has become a detrimental obstacle to the path of wide-scale K-Pop tours in the U.S. While K-Pop is slowly starting to gain a foothold in the country’s market, many labels and producers still have not had the chance to fall in love with the genre.
I had never seen an ethnicity that could perform soulfully and physically on the level of any other mainstream pop artist here in America and have the audience that K-Pop has.
As we delved deeper into this unfortunate issue, we came across an individual who has not only worked with K-Pop artists in the past, but who also shares an overwhelming passion with K-Pop fans. With his love for the genre driving him, he has set his sights on correcting misconceptions about K-Pop, and is endeavoring to bring K-Pop to the U.S. mainstream music market in a big way.
Tyrone “Niddy” Buckner, head of Billboard Entertainment Group LLC and freelance Co-Producer/A&R for C-JES Entertainment, started out in the business at a young age, as an aspiring artist/rapper in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from high school, Niddy studied music and film at Full Sail University and earned a degree in both film-making and the recording arts.
Niddy began his career as a A&R talent scout for Transcontinental Records/Fashion Rock, working with groups like the N’SYNC and the Backstreet Boys. He has worked with huge names such as Pitbull and Nelly/St. Lunatics on music-based film projects and has now gained the attention of the K-Pop fans worldwide with his work with CJeS Entertainment’s own Xia/Kim Junsu, from JYJ.
Recently, hellokpop sat down with Niddy via satellite, from the Qubeey headquarters in Los Angeles, to discuss how he got into K-Pop, what the genre means to him, what it was like working with Kim Junsu, and his plans and aspirations for the future of K-Pop in not only the U.S., but also around the world.
How were you introduced to K-Pop?
Niddy: “I was working with an artist by the name of Francis Kim. He is a really good friend of mine. When I saw him perform, he was just this amazing K-Pop artist. When I heard his voice, I was like, ‘Man, this kid is just amazing.’ So, he’s the one that kind of introduced me to K-Pop. Then, as I started learning about the genre, I was even more amazed. I was so surprised when I started to look at the American pop charts and realized that not one K-Pop artist was on there.”
What was it about K-Pop specifically that made you fall in love with the genre?
Niddy: “The performances of K-Pop artists themselves. I had never seen an ethnicity that could perform soulfully and physically on the level of any other mainstream pop artist here in America and have the audience that K-Pop has. It was this that specifically peaked my interest. I looked at it and I realized that the Asian community in the U.S. really didn’t have their own niche in popular music here, and I wondered why. Music transcends race, gender, ethnicity and everything. So, I felt like K-Pop truly deserved a place in the mainstream market, because it’s dope.”
How did you end up working with CJeS Entertainment as a freelance co-producer and A&R Exec?
Niddy: “While working with Francis Kim, I was asked by Dr. Dre to bring in some songwriters for a new record. So, I brought in Francis. We spent nine hours in the studio with Dr. Dre. After that, he introduced me to CJES.”
I got to see just how powerful and amazing JYJ truly are. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live.
With the collaboration between Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer and Kim Junsu for his solo English album, Uncommitted, you were heavily involved with its creation. Can you tell us a little about how that project came about?
Niddy: “At the time, as A&R for CJeS, I had about seventy-five track submissions from different producers and songwriters. I was introduced to Automatic through a friend, and he sent me a couple of tracks, one of those being Uncommitted. When I heard it, I was like “Aw man, this is a banger. This is right up their alley.” The funny thing is that track actually was originally submitted for JYJ [as a whole]. It just so happened that CJeS Executive Ray Yeom loved it and wanted to do it for Junsu. It almost happened accidentally.
CJeS hadn’t even announced that they were going to do a solo album for Junsu at the time. So, I thought they were going to use it for the boys. But it ended up being for Junsu’s solo project instead, which was a really good thing for myself, Automatic and the company, because it became a very successful English record. I’m so very proud of that record.”
Can you tell us a little about what it was like working with both Automatic and Kim Junsu in the studio?
Niddy: “The actual experience in the studio was amazing, because it was the first time I got to really hang out with Junsu. It was really exciting, because he has this really cool vibe. He’s got great energy and he smiles a lot. The funny thing about Junsu is his smile. You know when he’s in a good mood, in a good place, and when he’s around good energy, because he always smiles. He was totally a really great and fun person to work with. He worked hard and diligently. He wanted to make sure that record was really good. It was amazing.”
Recently JYJ held their “The Return of JYJ: Tokyo Dome” concerts in Japan. Afterwards, Uncommitted hit number one on Japan’s Amazon K-Pop charts. How did you feel when you found out the news?
Niddy: “I was actually at my son’s track meet when I got the call from Automatic. He was like “Yo Niddy! We’re there son! We made it baby!”, and I was like, “What happened?” He told me that Uncommitted hit number one on Japan’s Amazon K-Pop charts, and I was amazed. I was so excited about it, because it was a great accomplishment, considering what JYJ has been through over the last few years. To see the fight starting to show a winning phase felt really good.”
How did you feel when you found out that Junsu performed the track in front of 210,000 Japanese fans?
Niddy: “The first time I ever saw JYJ perform, I was in Peru. I had the privilege to be sent to Peru by CJeS to see them perform in front of about eighteen thousand fans. When I got there, I got to see just how powerful and amazing JYJ truly is. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live. There were thousands of fans with glow sticks in the air. It was dark, and they’re screaming and chanting JYJ’s name. My heart was just pounding, because I knew that one day they would be singing a track that I was a part of, that I did.
When I saw the fan-cams of Junsu performing Uncommitted in front of the fans at the Tokyo Dome, it was overwhelming, because it brought me back to that feeling I felt in Peru. It was amazing to see all the effort that we had put into this track was paying off and that the fans were loving it. I was ecstatic.”
At that moment, Mr. Automatic popped into the studio to say hello to Niddy and to check out what he was up to. You could tell that the two were truly great friends by their interaction with one another. We asked Automatic if there was anything he would like to say to our readers about Niddy, and he gladly responded with the following statement:
Automatic: “I’m happy for my boy Niddy and for being a part of this team. InRage Entertainment loves CJeS and JYJ. This whole experience has been phenomenal, and it all got started with my man Niddy. It’s just an incredible camp, and I’m proud to be a part of it! He’s about to do some big things. So, watch out for it.”
We then steered the interview to the subject of K-Pop fans and discussed how Niddy feels about being a K-Pop fan himself, how he views the other fans of the genre, and how the fans have treated him since the release of Uncommitted.
While K-Pop music itself can boast a wide range of accolades, it’s the genre’s dedicated and loving fans that have become the heart of K-Pop. What is it about this genre’s fans that you like the most?
Niddy: “As professionals, we always try to find a way to get back to the essence of the real fan. When I ran into the K-Pop fans, I saw a rebirth of that essence. I saw the real fan–the fans that cry, that fight for their artists and believe that their artists can do no wrong. They love their artists unconditionally. They love their music and they are willing to fight for their cause and what the music stands for. So, that deserves a place in our music industry.
That’s why I love K-Pop fans. They’ve embraced me. They tell me about their dreams, hopes, stories, aspirations, what they love about K-Pop, what they want to see happen in K-Pop, what they’re willing to do to make it happen. They are active themselves. I haven’t seen a community of fans like that in a very long time. I think that if the ‘big’ people in America could really get an eye on K-Pop fans and really see them, then they would truly see the power of this music and how it really deserves a place here. These fans deserve a place here.”
K-Pop fans always love to share their favorite artists with their friends. As a fan yourself, who are some of the K-Pop artists you enjoy and why?
Niddy: “I’ll have to go with my boys JYJ first, because I’ve worked with them and they are just extremely talented. Aside from them, there’s another group that I really think is dope: Big Bang. I really love Big Bang. They’ve got a track called Bad Boy that I like, and the music video is dope. I also like BoA, Girls Generation, 2NE1, Tablo, Wonder Girls, 2PM, Aziatix, and definitely Jay Park. I want to do something with Jay Park, because he’s amazing. I want to do a couple things with that dude.”
Have you ever wondered if your favorite artist really reads fan letters or appreciates fan gifts? We had been discussing K-Pop fans for a lengthy amount of time, when Niddy was reminded of a very interesting incident that happened while he was on tour with JYJ in Peru. He decided to share it with us. Listening to his story epitomizes the very essence of why JYJ is so loved the world over.
Niddy: “When I was in Peru, I had the opportunity to witness the gift-giving portion of the fans’ love. The fans, once again, because they are so incredible, take time out to create all kinds of fan gifts–from bag and posters to even buying merchandise–for the group. It was the last day of the tour in Peru, and we all went out to take a tour of the city. When we were leaving the hotel, there were fans everywhere, putting gifts for the group in our hands–asking us to give them to JYJ, and even throwing them through the window of the bus. After the boys stopped to pick up some new Samsung tablet phones and pairs of Beats By Dre,we got back on the bus to finish the tour.
When an artist gets that big, you know fans always wonder if they really keep that personal connection with their fans.
I was sitting on the bus and Junsu was sitting right in front of me. I asked him to check out a record I was listening to. So, I handed him my phone. While he was checking out the record, he reached over into the seat next to him and starting going through the fans’ gifts and reading the letters. I thought that was kind of cool. because I knew he was still a real person, that he was still down to earth, and that he truly cared about his fans. I just thought that was so cool. That was one of the greatest experiences of my time with them, before I got to know them better, and I wanted to let the fan fans know. The JYJ members are all like that. The really do love their fans.”
After Niddy finished his heartwarming story about Junsu, he introduced us to one of his closest friends and fellow K-Pop fan, super producer Jukebox.
Jukebox has become a highly successful producer in the music business with his work with renowned artist and actor Will Smith. He’s most well known for producing mega hits like Swizz Beatz Everyday Birthday, featuring Chris Brown, Ludacris and Jukebox, and the pop sensation Whip My Hair, by Willow Smith. We asked Jukebox what he thought about what Niddy was doing for the K-Pop market and he had this to say:
Jukebox: “(laughs) He’s the “Diddy” of K-Pop. I think what Niddy is trying to do is huge for music in general. He has a really innovative mind, and he’s really looking to bring that genuine love back to music. I think that’s one crucial thing that needs to happen, especially in today’s American music.”
As our interview began to wind down, we wanted to get a little more insight into what his company does, what their goals for the future are, and what they plan to accomplish for the K-Pop music market. He also gave us an exclusive on a very exciting, never-before-released announcement about a new artist that Billboard Entertainment Group LLC recently signed.
Could you explain a little about what Billboard Entertainment Group LLC is all about? What is your company’s mission statement?
Niddy: “We’re an across-the-board service company. We provide entertainment and music services such as marketing, A&R, management, and major distribution for artist and labels–especially for those international companies out there who are looking to tap into the U.S. market and global distribution. Our mission is our client’s mission.”
Would Billboard Entertainment Group LLC be interested in signing K-Pop or J-Pop groups in the near future? If so, is there any particular style of artist you are looking for?
Niddy: “Absolutely. We’re definitely going to be looking to sign some K-Pop artists and J-Pop artists. We’re looking for the same style as we would for American pop music. If I found an artist that’s an R&B K-Pop artist, and he or she is really great, then I’m going to want to work with them. If it’s a Soul artist, a Neo-Soul artist, a Pop artist, a Hip-Hop artist, a Rap artist, or even if there’s a Country K-Pop artist, I want to work with them all. I’m open to it all.”
What is Billboard Entertainment Group LLC’s vision for the future of K-Pop, and what do you want to do for the genre?
Niddy: “The vision of my company, within K-Pop, is to become another support system, another leg for K-Pop stand on, from the business side and the creative side as well. What we want to bring to K-Pop is to help companies and artists that are trying to work with producers and songwriters in the U.S. (or wanting to work on features with American artists), help artists from the U.S. who want to work with K-Pop artists, and kind of facilitate that convergence on both sides. I want to be able to offer the same services that we offered to CJeS (and more) to anyone that wants that opportunity. That’s the part that Billboard Entertainment Group LLC wants to play.”
How does it feel to be considered one of the most successful African American companies in K-Pop?
Niddy: “That’s very flattering statement. I’m proud that I’m an African American in K-Pop. It make me very proud to be recognized, both my company and myself, as a leader from the African American side in K-Pop. My company and I still have a lot to prove to K-Pop and the K-Pop fans. I don’t want to jump. I want to take my time. I want the fans to let me take my time. I want the K-Pop industry to allow me to take my time to prove myself, so that when those accolades come, they will really be deserved. That’s whats important to me.”
You recently posted on your social media, that you had a big announcement coming up with regard to signing a new artist. Could you tell us about her?
Niddy: “This is probably the most exciting announcement, and I’ve been holding it in for so long. Actually, we weren’t even supposed to be announcing this right now, but some really great things have come up. So, we’ve taken the position and made the decision to release this news to hellokpop first!
My company, Billboard Entertainment Group LLC, has signed the first female African American K-Pop artist in the world, commonly known as the Queen of K-Pop Covers. She is Pumashock (aka Natalie White). Pumashock is amazing on every level. She has covered some of the hottest songs in K-Pop. She has millions and millions of views online. She’s the only African American female K-Pop cover artist to appear on the Korean television show Star King and others. I think she going to make a huge impact on K-Pop. So, I’m very happy and proud to announce that we have signed Pumashock. I am looking forward to some great things that you guys are going to get to see in the next couple of days. She’s getting ready to release a huge feature with DTMG, which is another great K-Pop cover group. You’re about to see her star power.”
Before we let you go, is there anyone you’d like to thank? Do you have any special message that you want to leave for the fans?
Niddy: “I’d like to thank C-JES Entertainment Inc., music executive Jerrold Thompson and Qubeey.com. Also, a special thanks to hellokpop’s Adrian Cheng, for the opportunity to talk about K-Pop with the fans. Thank you to the fans for taking the time to read this interview, and for tapping into all the links that are in this interview, and I want you guys to continue to support me, because I will continue to support K-Pop.”
We would like to graciously thank Niddy for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and for giving us some insight on what he is doing in and for the K-Pop world. It was an absolute pleasure, and we are looking forward to a very bright future for K-Pop in the U.S. with him and this genre and its fans.
[UPDATE] Check out our exclusive coverage of Pumashock’s feature with DTMG right here.