When I went to see Keith Ape, the Korean rapper behind viral sensation “It G Ma”, I didn’t know what to expect. I had all these questions, like “Does he only rap in Korean?” and “What’s it like watching a rapper speaking a language you don’t understand”
Turned out those questions were not only beside the point – they didn’t matter at all. There’s music to fit all moods, and Keith Ape’s is meant to get you hyped, and man, did he deliver.
My preparation for the show revolved around watching “It G Ma” on repeat. It was inspired by OG Maco’s “U Guessed It”, and both songs have similarly shot videos with the same kind of Waka Flocka level ad libs.
It’s one thing for a song from Atlanta to inspire a bunch of Korean and Japanese rappers into working together. Hip hop is an American cultural export, after all. But when a song rapped almost entirely in Korean or Japanese gets huge in North America, that’s pretty big. And when it gets the obligatory remix, and it features Waka Flocka Flame, it’s like that loop of cross-cultural inspiration comes full circle.
The Vancouver stop of Keith Ape’s Underwater Kanada Tour was at Venue, and we killed the time before the opening act by grabbing beers and watching an impromptu B-boy cypher that broke out on the dance floor.
JayKin, a Vancouver-based rapper, did a solid job opening the show. Turns out he just got back from a year in Korea. He seemed happy to be home, and the crowd seemed happy to welcome him back. He said he met Keith Ape back when Ape went by Kid Ash, and it’s interesting to see that despite the name change, Keith kept his initials.
Keith Ape began at midnight. His high energy set, spanning just under an hour, was interspersed with whale sounds throughout because the killer whale is like his crew’s spirit animal. The “underwater squad” got the venue jumping as the crowd went “orca ninja rambo.”
The amount of people wearing the same face mask that Keith Ape has in the “It G Ma” video reminded me of when we were all worried about SARS, but the only sick things here were the bars, and later, the friend who came with me.
The show was the first time I’d ever seen a group of Asian rappers live, and their style took me back to those high school days when the most popular Asian hairstyles were either spikes, blonde bangs, or both.
Keith Ape ended the show with “It G Ma”, and it killed. The stage got packed as the crowd started to mob and mosh out with drinks spilling everywhere, but nobody cared. “It G Ma” means “never forget,” and unless you went a little too hard, you won’t.