The Keith Ape Phenomenon
Keith Ape jumped on the rap scene from nowhere. The Korean hip-hop artist was virtually unknown a year ago, but has seriously rose up from the underground in the year he’s been working hard to get his name known. He’s had an explosive year and had a successful American tour, and the rapper from Seoul has even been featured in countless magazines.
So what changed for this once anonymous non-English speaking rapper from Korea? Well, he looked to Atlanta’s hip-hop culture for inspiration and created his own interpretation of ATL trap music that’s now launched him to stardom across the globe. It was his “It G Ma” project that featured Korean and Japanese rappers Kohh, Lotta, JayAllDay and Okasian that helped grow his name, with a video that depicts his minimalist trap beats and more. And despite his Korean heritage, it’s his American fan base that helped launch his rap status thanks to being features on notable and recognized hip-hop sties like Pigeons & Planes and WorldStarHipHop.com.
Even though “It G Ma” features only a few English phrases, they definitely grab your attention and keep you hooked through the entire musical joint. Its catchy hooks and hard trap sound is what appeals to American listeners and now he’s been able to collaborate with other notable hip-hop names in the industry like A$AP Ferg and Wacka Flocka Flame. Although he he’s remixed his own trap sound, Ape does mention that he has American influencing, citing acts like Young Thug, Travi$ Scott and Awful Records.
And typical of American rappers, Ape even has his own signature fashion, opting to wear a surgical mask during performances, which is something many streetwear fanatics in East Asia don as a way to declare their personal fashion statement. But in the States, the surgical mask represents his foreignness, yet still conveys a fashion statement many of his fans mimic during concerts.
No other Korean rapper has the kind of success that Ape has had and it’s going down in the hip-hop history books. And Ape is feeling the love and grateful for his success, as detailed in his Complex piece that dropped last year. When he spoke to Hypetrack, he provided a lot of insight into his rise to fame and what makes him so different from other Korean rappers or entertainers. In the piece, he references the fact that he’s not produced or created by a company, so he’s not some cookie-cutter act. “I think it’s working because I’m able to represent myself the way I want to,” he explains in the piece. “I also feel like a large part of my success comes from the fact that I genuinely love the culture of hip-hop.” The rapper dropped out of high school at 17 and decided to completely dedicate himself to his music.
Trying to break it in American wasn’t easy and he had to go through a lot of challenges to make it happen. After going through a lot of agencies and record labels that provided him false promises, he finally joined Cohort and was able to find the support he needed to make music he really wanted, which would lead to his huge American breakout success.
And he’s not looking to be a one-hit wonder since his priority is to continue spreading his music and brand to the masses and find his own niche in the American music scene. So be on the look out for more big things from Keith Ape as he continues to spread the word about Korean hip-hop artists!