To close out Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, Skrillex brought out a slew of special guests including Justin Bieber, Diplo, Diddy, Kiesza along with newcomers Kai and K-pop singer/rapper CL. While it was undoubtedly a huge stage for all the artists involved, a remarkable musical moment happened during the 2NE1 member’s six-minute appearance that no one would have likely imagined happening even at the height of “Gangnam Style” mania.
CL first hit the stage to perform her verse from “Dirty Vibe,” the Skrillex/Diplo collaboration that features fellow K-pop superstar G-Dragon, off the dubstep prince’s 2014 Recess album — an expected choice. But after the “Dirty Vibe” snippet, fans heard the unmistakable Puff Daddy beat from 1997 hit “It’s All About the Benjamins.” But what came next wasn’t Diddy rapping, but CL rapping…in Korean. Watch below at the 9:00 mark:
The 24-year-old whipped out the verses to her solo K-pop banger “MTBD” — an cut off from 2NE1’s record-breaking Crush album — over the ’90s beat, rapping completely in Korean for the massive Miami crowd. All while Skrillex, Diplo and even Sir Diddy himself watched and supported from the booth.
It was a breakthrough moment for Korean music thanks to an artist who is massive in Asia (2NE1 boasts to have sold more than 30 million singles, appeared on the Forbes Korea Celebrity 40 list and staged multiple tours across the continent), but is relatively unknown stateside, but worked to hard to collaborate and prove herself among some of music’s biggest talents. Last fall, news broke that CL had teamed with Scooter Braun, who would manage a full-fledged solo debut in America with Diplo, Skrillex, Blood Diamonds and more all on board. If this performance is any indication, we won’t be getting any type of “Westernized” CL, but one that retains her individual state of badass-ery and can fit comfortably inside the U.S. scene whether she’s singing in English or Korean. Key word being: comfortably.
When PSY‘s “Gangnam Style” broke through in America, the general public wondered if K-pop was on the verge of making a western crossover. Meanwhile, longtime K-pop fans wondered if the sun glass-clad superstar had done a disservice to the scene so that it wouldn’t ever be taken seriously by a non-Asian audience. If PSY popped up as a special Ultra guest, it would have undoubtedly been a chance for the tens of thousands of crowdgoers to do the horsey dance together — fun, but probably not any type of legitimate musical co-sign that indicates Korean music making a place at a future U.S. fest. But CL performing Korean music in the final hour of a major U.S. festival? That’s cool and game changing.