It’s 10:23 PM on a Friday night in downtown Los Angeles, meaning there is no shortage of sweaty bodies swaying on the crowded floor of the Regent. The crowd is a strange spectrum of sunglass-wearing hipster chicks and nerdy teens, mixed with everyone in between. But that’s the thing about Yaeji. She is an enigma that straddles the border between cool and obscure with both her music and quirky style, proving that music knows no constructs. Tonight is her second of two sold out shows in LA on her current One More headlining tour.
Born Kathy Yaeji Lee, but known in the music world simply as “Yaeji,” the 25-year-old Korean-American singer, DJ, and producer has been seducing the electronic music world beat by layered beat. Her music is a mix of 4x4 traditional house rhythms mixed with hip-hop influences, laced with her half-whispered Korean/English vocals. She first started making music in her home state of New York while she was in college, after being introduced to Brooklyn’s underground music scene and throwing techno parties with her friends. Fast forward a few years later and Yaeji is in god mode after releasing two EPs and playing major festivals like Coachella and Sonar.
The crowd’s raucous screams as she finally appears onstage are as loud as ever, a testimony to the cult following she’s built over the years. Her live show brings a kind of magic that you can’t get simply by listening to a track. Experiencing a Yaeji set is like following her into one of the hazy Brooklyn basement parties where she traces her roots. She opens with beat-heavy tracks like “Feel it Out” and “Guap” to invite you to dance with her, then puts you under her spell with feelsy, quiet vocals in tracks like “New York 93,” “Feelings Change,” or her popular cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit.” She saves her most well-known track “Raingurl” for last. Her audience is so entranced that they try to scream the lyrics, even though they’re in Korean and it comes out as gibberish for most attendees.
What many of them don’t realize is that a lot of Yaeji’s music is heavily influenced by her feelings of isolation and culture clash as she was growing up, and her eventual discovery of freedom and belonging in music. Onstage she is unpretentious and almost goofy, with her slightly awkward dancing and infectious smile. She serves as an inspiration to her fans or other aspiring artists, being one of the few Asian-American females in the electronic music scene.
Yaeji is currently on her One More in North America and still has shows scheduled through 2018. Keep up with her here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.