The Novo in Los Angeles has become a staple venue for emerging K-pop acts that have a substantial following. But last Friday night, it wasn’t a group of singers dancing to intricate choreographies in shiny outfits that sold out the venue, but rapper Live from the Korean collective DPR. Just across the street, two of the biggest hip-hop acts in the U.S. were entertaining thousands at the Staples Center. But back at The Novo, some fans lined up since 10 p.m. the night before just to get as close as possible to an independent music collective from South Korea and its current lone artist for their first worldwide tour, Coming To You Live.
DPR stands for “Dream Perfect Regime” and is a multi-genre music and video collective formed by seven members. Their roles in the group span from visual director (Christian Yu aka DPRIAN), to producer (DPR Cream), to rapper —Dabin Hong, known as Live or DPR Live. The collective became known initially for directing music videos for big names in K-pop like Taeyang, and also for doing everything independently, from Live’s fiery tracks to the stunning music videos. Even if you don’t know anything about Korean music, you might have stumbled on “Eung Freestyle” as a YouTube ad a few years ago. That’s DPR’s work.
Earlier this year, DPR played SXSW’s Korea Spotlight show with other up-and-coming Korean acts. It was Live’s first performance in the U.S. and fans showed up just to support them. Half a year later, DPR sold out shows of the CTYL tour all over the States, including the LA stop, which had to be upgraded from the Avalon to The Novo due to the high demand.
Serving as the opening act and overall mood setter, DJ DaQ —who has spinned on Korean rap competition shows like Show Me the Money and Unpretty Rapstar— lit up the audience with a combination of classic and current hip-hop tracks and well-loved K-pop jams like “Mic Drop” by BTS and “Whistle” by Blackpink.
But the real thrill started when Live emerged and dove right into his artist manifesto, “Know Me.” Phones went up in the air and the fans recited back every word so loud that you could hear the crowd more than the artist. Born in Korea and raised in Guam, most of Live’s songs mix Korean and English pretty evenly, making it easier for the local fans to connect to him and his lyrics.
With the biggest smile on his face, Live performed some of his best knows tracks like “Cheese & Wine,” “Laputa,” and “Thirst” before addressing the audience. “This is fucking crazy,” he said while holding his head. In disbelief, he talked about how the crew started out in a basement and simply followed their passion. It was his first show in Los Angeles —an event he dubbed “historical.”
For the entire night, the CTYL show was one epic duet between the audience and Live. From slower tempo jams like “Please,” “Is You Down,” and “Jasmine” to faster paced ones like “Action!” and “Martini Blue.” For “Please,” fellow DPR member Cline joined him onstage for the performance, and for the last, the crowd created a sea of lights with their cellphones. At the end, Live responded, “I felt that.” But the tracks that drew the most energy were his better known ones like “Playlist,” which included a little duo dance by Live and Christian while he held the camera he was filming the show with.
But the night couldn’t end without DPR’s theme song. The entire crew came onstage as the crowd chanted “DPR we gang gang,” the hook to “To Myself,” over and over. The group jumped around the stage and threw water at the fans, and the fans reciprocated the vibe by being just as hyped up.
When it comes to Hallyu (Korean wave) acts, it’s typically the K-pop groups that draw in passionate fans. Korean rappers often play to a mostly Korean crowd in Los Angeles, with the bigger names bringing in more diverse crowds. Live and DPR as a whole aren’t household names back home yet, but their unique and creative approach to their craft has garnered them fans all over the world. And selling out their first show in the city (and all over the world, by the way), DPR proved that this is only the beginning of great things.
After the show ended, fans emerged to find that it was raining. Many stayed close to the venue while waiting for their rides in attempt to escape the rain. Suddenly, the DPR crew was spotted coming out of The Novo and waved at the crowd. The fans immediately erupted in a booming “DPR we gang gang” chant until they disappeared again, reiterating their support for the collective and the perfect ending to an absolutely lit night.