There’s something ballsy about Korean hip-hop artists embarking on a legit old school style grass roots US tour, going through local hip-hop promoters, traveling across the country performing at smaller venues (even colleges), and getting up close and personal with fans just like any hip-hop artist here in the US on the come-up. That’s exactly what San E and Mad Clown have done, with 19 stops across the US done in less than a month, and with just Sobae and DJ Juice in tow.
As if that wasn’t enough to earn at least a basic modicum of respect, the duo marked their LA stop on 4/20, the perfect holiday to celebrate good music and fresh greens. We can debate the implications of cannibus in Korean hip-hop all we want, but at this point, it’s irrelevant. South Korean hip-hop artists are not ignorant and know exactly what they were doing. From the compilation albums dedicated to getting baked to the socks and hoodies covered in pot leaf print, cannibus culture in South Korea is now a fashion trend the way it was in the US back in the 90s.
So when I was granted the opportunity to cover the LA show at the Union, I knew this was going to be a crazy night. Even though it was 4/20, I didn’t expect any mention of the holiday. Honestly, I knew I shouldn’t have expected anything whatsoever, but I hoped and prayed to hear San E perform his harder tracks, his diss tracks, his fire tracks dipped in haterade and served with a side of shade. I knew better, but I held out hope. I mean … it was a holiday. Maybe he’d drop the cutesy facade and give us a taste of fiery San E from “#LuvUHater“?
The show started with Sobae stepping out on stage. I’d never seen her before but I’m pretty damn sure no one will forget her. She’s a stunna with a mic, pipes to give you the shivers and a sassy style that makes you want to see her again. She warmed up the crowd while DJ Juice spun tracks as she sung.
San-E and Mad Clown stepped out on stage next — San-E all goofy grin and funky dance moves, Mad Clown all calm composure with a shy smile and cute style. They stepped up to the center of the stage and greeted a roaring crowd before rolling right into their fun and funky set with tracks like “Butterfly“. They played together on stage, teasing each other giving the most adorable fan service as their friendship blossomed on stage.
They performed their famed cutesy duets and poppy hip-hop tracks that everyone tends to love, like “Sour Grapes” and “Body Language” just to name a few. Sobae took the reigns on some duet tracks, while the backing track covered the others. They eventually played rock-paper-scissors to see who’d get solo stage time first.
Mad Clown brought up a fan to play with them and she rocked it, winning the stage for him. He talked about how he got married and then immediately released “Love Is A Dog From Hell“, chuckling into the mic while musing, “Well, that tells you about what marriage is like.” He performed the track as well as a few others from the release and then he talked about how everyone sees him as calm and shy, but claimed that he could go hard too. To prove his point, he went ahead and powered through an aggressive freestyle that had everyone screaming as he nearly folded in two and spat fire into the mic. I stood there shocked, nearly forgetting my camera as Mad Clown gave me the hardcore rap I’d wanted all night.
San E stepped out on stage, dancing and lilting around like a happy little kid excited to be on stage, cute and bouncy as he danced around. At one point, he stopped and started doing a bit of choreography from a K-pop song. With tracks like “Sugar And M“, “Me U“, and “Mohae“, he kept the set light and poppy. Sometimes I wonder if San E secretly wanted to be an idol, and I also now understand why he’s all over variety shows.
The man is a born entertainer, working the crowd with his vibrant personality and cutesy flirtatious demeanor. He brought a fan on stage and serenaded her on one knee at one point, then wrapping his arms around her gingerly as she hugged him back, excited at the contact between them. The fanservice was too real.
Finally, everyone was on stage. Mad Clown and San E swapped places with impressions of each other as they performed their ‘Show Me The Money‘ tracks. San E in a beanie and round rim glasses, while Mad Clown threw on the most ridiculous wig made of what looked like rainbow piping, mocking San E’s terrible choice in recent hair styles. We all died! San E thanked everyone for coming out to the event, saying the tour was the most exciting thing he’d done in a while and he was glad they were going at it in the direction they were. He thanked fans who came from all over the world to LA to see them and wished everyone a happy 4/20! He knew exactly what day it was and told everyone to have a good time and be safe! We laughed at his 4/20 friendly jokes as they took a group photo.
I won’t say I was disappointed in the lack of hard hitting hip-hop. The reality is both San-E and Mad Clown put on an incredible show. It was fun and raucous, with fans screaming every single lyric at them while being as extra as possible. I’m glad I got to be a part of it and hope they all come back really soon.
Thank you to Sean Healy Presents for allowing Asian Junkie to participate in this event!