How Los Angeles Hearts Yaeji

By all accounts, the unassuming 25-year-old Korean American from Queens, New York, left the Yuma tent smoldering at this year’s Coachella festival, with what has become Yaeji’s signature low-burn blend of wide-spectrum house beats, cinematic scoring, self-composed hip-hop-inflected lyrics performed live and interlaced seamlessly with murky, deeply personal Korean-language hooks. I know — sheit is Kraeji!

Fans buzzed from Coachella and those already faithful to Yaeji’s self-titled debut EP and “EP2,” released by Godmode in 2017, quickly sold out two dates at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles, where it is packed with a crowd of well-mannered scenesters, both young and enthusiastic (in their drinks and alpha-dance posture), and dotted by more weathered heads clearly still in pursuit of new emotional states emerging from the house music rinse.

On this Oct. 18 night, Yaeji opens her live show with what could easily be the closer. “Raingurl” powers up, mid-mix, with a walking bassline that billows into the room like puffing smoke, wafting atmospheric MIDI files in a backing track to her low-key, Bahamadia-like rapturous verse.

매주하는 생각
What if it’s just me
영화 한편 끝나듯이
As real as it can be
갑갑했던 기억들은
Where I can’t just see
창문없는 방에
When I am set free

And with the bridge and refrain, the A/C falls apart:

‘Mother Russia in my cup
And my glasses foggin’ up
Oh yeah, hey dog, hey what’s up
Oh yeah, hey dog, hey what’s up
When the sweaty walls are bangin’
I don’t fuck with family planning
Make it rain girl, make it rain

As the crowd sings along to her trademark heater, Yaeji breaks into an adorable ajussi strut, akin to the celebratory dance floor groove of your favorite fresh-off-the-pihaengi Korean uncle. Sheit is Yaeji!

Yaeji brings each song of her live act to a distinct end, breaking the mix between tracks, which lends itself to a more sedentary audience vibe. Not to say the rug-cutting was curtailed, especially to extended mixes of “Drink I’m Sippin’ On” and “After That,” in which deep basslines breathe rhythmically under layers of seismic rumble, slowed and throwed liquid drops, and the pew-pew finger-gun whimsy of video game soundtracks.

Even as she scales to a career high point with this tour, Yaeji still identifies with EDM’s outliers. On tour she brings the vibe of her cultivated scene: Yaeji is known for opening her home to DIY-hosted nights, where she studiously holds her own with compact discs and mixer one moment, and the next, she’s inviting the house to feast from a pot of curry.

To close, Yaeji walks it out with the Regent audience, back to whence we came, with a reworked mix of “Raingurl,” leaving an impression of a looping continuum now programmed in L.A. hearts.


This article appears in KORE’s December 2018 issue. Subscribe here.