Keith Ape is Aiming for a 'New Beginning' on His U.S. Debut EP 'Born Again'

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South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 options The Rooftop stage, a outside area set 4 tales excessive that gives skyline views of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop. It’s right here in October that Keith Ape is performing for 88Rising’s 88 Degrees & Rising Tour in help of the label’s first group album, Head within the Clouds, which was launched in July. Ape, who's carrying A Bathing Ape tee, black pants and neon slides, is delivering a spirited model of “Japan 88.” It's his solely contribution to Head within the Clouds, remixing Famous Dex’s “Japan” with Verbal of Teriyaki Boyz fame.

His 20-minute set is fast and to the purpose. Ape’s setlist consists of “Ninja Turtle,” a druggy flex anthem, and an unique debut of “The Ice Ape,” which is all about Ape’s obsession with diamonds and costly jewellery. He concludes his portion of the present with “IT G Ma,” the breakout single that helped him crossover in America three years in the past. Yet, even in 2018, the group is able to mosh pit and go insane upon listening to the start seconds of Ape screaming “IT G Ma! Underwater Squad!”

Ape brings out Japanese rapper Kohh to carry out his contribution, and the vitality simply goes up a notch. The vocal efficiency of Ape and Kohh constructing from their verses to screams on the track’s hook continues to be a spectacle to witness stay — a ton of twenty somethings, principally Asian teenagers from completely different ethnic teams, rapping their lyrics loud.

Born Dongheon Lee in Seoul, South Korea, the 24-year-old rapper -- who took his stage title from late graphic artist Keith Haring -- didn’t equate the magnitude of “It G Ma” as an indication of success. “Of course at first, I believed I made it,” Ape tells Billboard in July. He’s stress-free on a sofa at his Airbnb within the East Village dressed right down to a Billionaire Boys Club t-shirt and crimson Polo pants. Next to him is Oscar Lee, who's his day-to-day supervisor. “We’ve been out right here for a few years, and I’ve bumped into points – not critical – however on a regular basis issues. After going via that, I spotted I've an extended solution to go.”

Those “on a regular basis issues” he speaks of have been typical issues overseas artists usually undergo after they’re centered on constructing their fanbases in America. “To merely put it, residing in America as a non-American,” he says. Ape’s first language is Korean, so he’s been studying to talk English fluently with the assistance of a translator. “Not rising up right here, not from right here, however making an attempt to stay right here, making an attempt to work right here, and making an attempt to make it in America,” he says, including that he focuses on the American market as a result of “[Hip-hop] began from America and Americans made it. Hip-hop is American music.”

Back in 2015, Ape’s “IT G Ma,” recorded with JayAllday, Loota, Okasian, and Kohh, turned a viral hit, positioning him because the creator of an Asian entice wave taking on hip-hop globally. Dubbed as “the Korean OG Maco” at first, he started to tear down each stay present he had in America, altering the notion of that comparability to a gifted rapper who leads South Korea’s burgeoning rap scene. Ape was rowdy and a conductor of mayhem, and his sound was resonating within the States, getting one other push when Dumbfoundead, ASAP Ferg, Father, and Waka Flocka Flame appeared on the “It G Ma (Remix).” The video premiered on Complex in July 2015, the place the publication wrote, “You are about to bear witness to a groundbreaking second in convergence tradition.”

In subsequent years after “IT G Ma” picked up steam, Ape saved a low profile. He moved to Los Angeles and began to work extra intently with 88Rising’s founder Sean Miyashiro, who started to handle him. He ready to make his return to rap by releasing loosies on the web, and specifically, linking with Ski Mask the Slump God for a handful of gems (“Dr. Eggman,” “Going Down Underwater,” “Achoo!”). Another one in all his collabs that drew pleasure was “Gospel” with Rich Brian and XXXTentacion, which dropped in May of final yr.

Originally slated to be Rich Brian’s track, Ape thought it could be a superb alternative to create a second together with his 88Rising labelmate. He labored on the track earlier than X’s demise, ending his half someday in 2016. “I needed I used to be in a position to meet him in particular person. We by no means obtained an opportunity to satisfy face-to-face,” he says of X. “I've a reminiscence of working actually laborious on the track. And that track, put me again on, so it is extremely significant to me.”

In the lead as much as BORN AGAIN, which launched on Oct. 12, Ape scrubbed his Twitter and Instagram pages. “This was a reboot of my picture. I wished to restart,” he says. “Until I launch my mission, I’ll be placing one photograph at a time [on Instagram]. The images aren’t of me. They are of others issues. A recent new begin.”

Before Ape revealed the paintings for “Ninja Turtle,” which displayed piles of U.S. and Korean received with leisure medicine, and introduced his first single from the EP was dropping on Sept. 6, he saved a photograph of a crowbar on his IG web page. The picture was paying homage to Half-Life, and the caption learn: “Crowbar Black Mesa Research Facility PC Game STL 3D-model 3D-print Only Digital Prop Cosplay.”

“As far because the caption and the photograph goes, I believed it could work effectively collectively. It simply appeared dope. The photograph itself is a part of my break time. It was my journey of placing myself again collectively as who I actually am,” he says. “I grew up taking part in Half-Life so much. And the crowbar is the essential merchandise of it. It’s nearly like a brand new starting ‘trigger you begin with the crowbar.”

BORN AGAIN is simply that — a rebirth. With his new self comes a re-introduction of Keith as a curator of what he deems cool. BORN AGAIN’s paintings is drawn by manga artist Santa Inoue, identified for his Tokyo Tribes sequence and his iconic SARU tee. For producers on the EP, he labored with Philadelphia-based collective Working on Dying, whose credit embrace Matt Ox’s “Overwhelming” and upcoming Lil Uzi Vert songs. For visitor options, he collaborated with Wifisfuneral, Chief Keef, and Yung Bans on “Ninja Turtle,” “The Ice Ape,” and “The Opium War."

BORN AGAIN ends on “Symphony No. 1993: Escape from Planet of the Apes.” Keith Ape is so devoted to the affect of Nigo, the creator of BAPE, that he paid homage to “Symphony No. 25910 - Escape From Planet of the Apes” off Nigo’s Ape Sounds album from 2000.

“Escaping is like… planet is a really conceptual factor, [I’m] not speaking a couple of bodily planet,” he says of the track title. “Do you know the way individuals will at all times say, ‘Out of this world?’ The planet might additionally symbolize my previous, so it's transferring out of my previous and beginning my new self.”

It’s all a part of Keith Ape’s mission to make his U.S. comeback impactful, shutting down any speak of him being a one-hit marvel. The overarching theme of BORN AGAIN proves he’s on his solution to turning into an influential multi-hypenate for the youthful era, following within the footsteps of different cultural disruptors like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Ape additionally has a particular place in his coronary heart for XXXTentacion and his music, particularly after the "SAD!" rapper has garnered comparisons to 2Pac after he was shot and killed in Florida in June.

“I believe there are a variety of artists which have expanded the spectrum of hip-hop as a music. After Kanye, Pharrell, and Kid Cudi, in like [the] youthful era, I believe X is likely one of the few that I felt that method concerning the artist,” he says. “I’m not evaluating anyone to anyone, however he is likely one of the artists that gave me that feeling. He’s the artist that had the potential to be one of many best, particularly as of late.”

On the Pier 17 stage, all the 88rising line-up — Don Krez, Kohh, August 08, Niki, Higher Brothers, Rich Brian, and Joji — return to complete out the evening with a medley. It’s previous 9 p.m., however the followers are nonetheless rocking for these bursts of performances. After their posse reduce, “Midsummer Madness,” and Higher Brothers’ energetic “WeChat,” the DJ cues up “Gospel.” Rich Brian throws an X up throughout XXXTentacion’s chaotic verse as a present of respect. Keith Ape lastly re-emerges from backstage, as the ultimate 88Rising member to invigorate the viewers one final time.