BOSTON — It was raining on the night of Feb. 29, but that didn't stop excited music fans from waiting outside the Middle East, a trendy music venue in Cambridge, Mass., for the Aziatix show to begin.
If you've never heard of Aziatix, an Asian American R&B/hip-hop group, that may be about to change.
Asian American singers have not traditionally achieved much acclaim in the US. But as K-pop, or Korean pop music, rises in popularity in the US, and Asian American artists continue to push racial barriers and self-produce, some Asian American music groups are beginning to find success.
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All three members of Aziatix are Korean American and were born in the US. Feeling there were more opportunities in Asia, they each individually went to Asia, where they eventually met one another and producer Jae Chong in Korea.
Fame in Asia came first — they recently landed No. 1 on Japan's R&B/Soul iTunes chart with "Nocturnal (Deluxe Edition) and won Best New Group at Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) 2011. But now, they are looking to the US, where they are finding many "Aziaddicts" following their second US tour.
GlobalPost spoke with Aziatix vocalists Eddie Shin, 25, and Nicky Lee, 31, and rapper Flowsik, 26, before the Cambridge show.
GlobalPost: How's your US tour going so far?
Nicky: It's been amazing.
One word to describe your music for GlobalPost readers?
Why is Aziatix getting popular?
Eddie: We created our music and released it in a very natural process. Our first song "Go" actually received a lot of love from the US. Also, thanks to the power of the internet, we were able to be heard simultaneously worldwide, so our buzz pretty much grew at the same time, from US to Asia, and Europe as well.
How did you guys get involved in the Asian music scene?
Nicky: Big brother Jae and big brother Jeffrey Huang started a company out in Taiwan called "Machi." After getting rejected by every label out there, brother Jeff and Jae gave me my first break. I will be forever thankful to the fans for loving and supporting my Mandarin music.
Flowsik: Just wanted to try out new things. There are many opportunities as an artist, and I was very curious and hungry to do as much as I can.
Eddie: I made a lot of friends who are artists out in Korea so I started making music with them.
Congrats on winning MAMA 2011 Best New Group. At the awards show, what do you think other K-pop groups thought about Aziatix?
Eddie: Winning the MAMA awards as Best New Group was a huge blessing. Since our music is in English, we believe that other K-pop groups looked at us as an international act and felt very proud that we represented Korean music globally.
Do you guys consider Aziatix a K-pop group?
Nicky: I guess because we are Korean American that makes us kind of K-pop but our music has a little bit of everything in it from R&B, hip-hop, soul, rock, electronica... We love all different types of music, and our songs reflect that. I wish they had a label for "Good Music" and hopefully we would be in that category.
What do you guys have that K-pop groups don't?
Flowsik: Not just K-pop, I don't think there are a lot of groups out there right now that fuse as many genres and sensibilities as we do. We blend hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock, house, and all our tracks are produced in-house. We're confident that our music transcends not just genres but race as well.
If it weren't for Aziatix, would you guys still be pursuing solo careers in Asia or the US?
Nicky: I'm sure we would still be making music wherever we are. For us, the US is the ultimate goal. It's the mecca of music.
Why do you think Asian American talents are increasingly going to Asia?
Eddie: It's not easy getting a chance to showcase yourself to the right people in the States, or the music industry in general. When a striving artist reaches a certain point, one is willing to do their best and whatever they can to be heard and make music a career. I guess Asia offers many outlets and opportunities to be heard, such as auditions, contests and so on.
Do you have any words of encouragement for other Asian American artists in the US?
Nicky: No matter how hard it may seem never give up. Opportunity will come so when the opportunity comes make sure you catch it. Don't ever give up, as much as many times a door closes there's going to be a window that opens one day so stay up.
Eddie: There's not a lot of us out there, at least in the US scene, so try to keep it going, try to root for each other. We gotta stick together.
Flowsik: Take J Lin as a quick example. Shoutouts to J Lin! He's having his moment right now. I think it's clear that everyone has their moment but it takes time and a lot of preparation and hard work to get to that one moment. So everyone has their own moment; you just gotta keep working hard.
Daniel Cho, Aziatix manager and CEO of ECHOforward music agency, says the group has already hit the US social space and will now aim to work directly in the music market.
Their single "Go" has been promoted on radio and getting airplay in the US as of this past February, and "their music video 'Go' just got added to CoolTV which has 65 markets, in 52 million households... You can expect to see them [Aziatix] in TV appearances in America very soon," Cho said.