Epik High is an award winning trio from Seoul, Korea and broke ground this year as the FIRST act from Korea to perform at Coachella! The guys chat with Hapa about all things including the music industry in Korea, their love for golden era hip hop, and DJ Tukutz many roles in the group.
Hapa: I want to talk about you guys first. Give people a little bit more background about who you guys are and who are some of your influences. How did the three of you guys come together and form this group “Epik High”?
Epik High: Well, I was going to college in California. I went to Stanford and during Winter break I was in Seoul. I loved music at the time and I was doing music as a hobby. I ran into Mithra Jin and we talked about doing a group maybe. And then when I went back to school to finish up, somebody sent me a turntablism set by DJ Tukutz. I didn’t know they had turntablism, so I was like, we need a DJ in our team. (Since) we are 80s babies, 90s kids, we always knew that there had to be a DJ. When I went back to Korea after I finished school, we were like, this is the way we are going to do it. One DJ, two MCs, let’s go!
Hapa: I love it man. Let’s talk about the success you have in Korea. The songs have done incredibly well on YouTube, you’ve got a ton of fans, you’ve got this great fan base that’s going on out that way. Talk about how that all come about and some of the awards you guys have won.
Epik High: It’s strange because we’ve never set out to be a successful group. We set out to be miserable and crappy (jokingly). We started in the underground and performed at clubs in front of like a dozen to 30 people. Our first album came out and although it sold like ten thousand copies, that wasn’t regarded as a success. Our second album came out and it sold a little more but it wasn’t totally regarded as a success because hip hop wasn’t that big at the time. This is way back in like 2003 – 2004. But we kept at it and we just did a lot of different things. And one day it started doing extremely well, and then after that it’s been a success story.
Hapa: Was there a particular record or certain performance, was there a point in time in which you’re like, yes we’re now are successful?
Epik High: Yes. It was our third album. It was actually called “Swan Songs” because we thought that it would be our last album. The company at the time was like, you have three chances- if you guys don’t get it right this time and make some money back, there’s no career. So we were like, okay let’s just put out our best, we’ll call it Swan Songs, and if it doesn’t work out we’ll just try other things. But we put it out and on the first day it came out, it hit number one on the charts and just stayed there. After that it’ s been one hell of a ride.
Hapa: I’m trying to visually see what this looks like on stage with the three of you. Is it a different stage show for Coachella?
Epik High: We’re constantly on tour all over the world. We’re always performing and always changing up the sets. Because if you see us on stage, we’re just having a lot of fun. And it’s hard to stay interested in what you do if it’s the same thing, so we always switch it up. Actually the weekend 2 show that we’re going to do this week on Sunday is going to be a different set from what we did for last Sunday.
Hapa: Let’s talk about that a little bit. What was that like? Because you said it earlier that the three of you would wanted to go to Coachella and just wanted to hang out. But here you are and you guys are artists performing at Coachella! What’s that even like?!
Epik High: It’s amazing. Since our show is on Sunday, Friday and Saturday we were just watching other musicians and were just hanging out everywhere. We saw some amazing people and ran into some musicians we love. We actually saw Kanye, which was the highlight of that night. He was actually walking beside us for a while and we didn’t know! He was smiling and was nice to everybody. It was awesome.
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