Before there was the music, there was KTown. It’s where Far East Movement formed: sneaking into bars as underage L.A. rap fiends, incinerating blunts and kicking freestyles in parking lots until the sun rose.
Koreatown is where they hosted their first open mic, rocked their first show, and honed the sound that made them international rap superstars. It’s also the backdrop of their forthcoming Cherrytree/Interscope EP, KTown Riot, fueled by the charting first Schoolboy Q-aided single, “The Illest.”
“The KTown community was a huge inspiration for us to make Far East Movement. They had our back when no one else did,” says Kev Nish, one fourth of the group, alongside Prohgress, J-Splif, and DJ Virman.
Those apathetic days vanished long ago. The group that Spin called “EDM pioneers” boast an unrivaled resume at getting girls (and guys) on the dance floor. The platinum-selling “Like a G6” became the first-ever Billboard Hot 100 #1 by Asian-American artists. Their last album, Dirty Bass spawned four singles that reached the top 10 of pop charts across the globe.
Much of their success has stemmed from their gift at cultivating a pan-global sound. But for their latest record, FM understood the need to re-discover and re-define the modern LA experience. The aesthetic fuses soul-coughing bass, chrome-plated trap beats, laid back rider music, and effervescent pop melodies. The energy and ideas are new, but the attitude remains infectious.
Far East Movement figured out the flavor that makes their hood unique; KTown Riot is the sound of them exporting it to the world. The inaugural song of this era, “The Illest,” was written shortly after the crew returned home following a year of non-stop travel.
“We felt we needed to bring the sound home, so we took almost a month off from touring and went out every night to karaoke rooms and bars and just lived,” recalls Kev Nish.
The result is a return to their roots and a re-invention. If the best rap is often regional, Far East Movement captures the sonic diversity of one of the biggest melting pots in North America.
“We want this EP to shine a light and soundtrack on the city. You don’t have to be Korean to be down,” Kev Nish says. “We kept the hard bass we’re known for and partnered with homies from all over the world to make music that neither of us are known for.”
The idea was loosely based around how much the ‘92 riots shaped Ktown and LA proper. A concrete jungle once engulfed by flames has been rebuilt. Once heated racial tensions have largely dissipated. Far East Movement is trying to rip up outmoded ideas and start anew, constructing something indestructible atop the ashes.
You can hear these ideas percolate within the explosive songs. “Bang it to the Curb” features Sydney Sampson and goes from Amsterdam to Olympic and Vermont in a matter of three minutes flat. The synths and snares glow ultra-violet and hit so hard they’ll smash your Alpine system. Trap-infused song, “Grimey Thirsty,” produced by Central-American EDM powerhouse Rell the Soundbender featuring chart-topping rapper YG brings Compton to KTown. And upcoming single “Level (Palm Trees),” is a West Coast influenced psychedelic hip-hop anthem.
Ktown Riot has that bounce. You’ll know it when you hear it.
“We aren’t out to make a socially conscious record,” Kev Nish adds. “The music is still that heavy bass Far East movement music that people get fucked up to. But we set out to captures how it feels like for us rolling, partying, living, chilling and getting faded in Ktown with all of our people, no matter the race.”