Can Alternative K-Pop Find Fame Outside Korea? UPTOWN BOYBAND Prove It [INTERVIEW]

K-Pop continues to spread across the world but the way it is dominating the U.S.A, Canada, and a majority of North America cannot go unnoticed. With groups like BTS and Black Pink sweeping the charts alongside their names appearing on every major news outlet making headlines, it is opening the doors for Korean Canadian artists like UPTOWN BOYBAND.

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UPTOWN BOYBAND, the Alternative K-Pop and Hip Hop trio who debuted in early 2020, are rising stars who aren’t afraid to spit some game and really dig deep with their rap lyrics. The Toronto, Ontario based boy group consists of three members – rapper Justin Trash, singer Joe Rascal and singer / engineer Roc Lee. Each member has a talent that cannot go unnoticed and combined they are manifesting their own creative take on the rap scene while winning over the hearts of not only Koreaboos but fans of Hip Hop in general.

Before diving into the interview, check out one of their most popular releases “Bag$” – a song with a synthetically captivating beat that simply slaps due to its echoing tones and simplistic yet sophisticated instrumental. Keep reading and enjoy learning all about the humble beginnings of Justin Trash, Joe Rascal and Roc Lee.

UPTOWN BOYBAND continues to showcase their talent through YouTube. Although COVID-19 may have put a halt to their tour promotions, it hasn’t stop these creatives from producing as they diligently move forward while dabbling in concepts, sharing retro-themed promotions, and exploring their identities as artists – although they already seem quite confident with their image!

Q.1 – How did the group start and how was the name decided? 

JOE: “Myself and Roc Lee were friends since high school and later on met Justin through a mutual friend at a Korean bar. Over some Soju and Kimchi fries (YUM!) we found that we shared the same vision and decided on the name UPTOWN at first (because of the area in Toronto where we lived) later bringing BOYBAND to our name.”

Q2. – Each of the boys are equipped with some rap skills that just hit differently – how did you learn?

JUSTIN: “We learned how to sing and rap from listening and growing up with music that was hip hop and pop. Our sound is inspired by artists like ASAP Rocky and Big Bang.”

Q3. – Can you tell us about your artist names? 

ROC: I got the name Roc Lee when I used to dance in high school. I had black hair back then with thick eyebrows. So they called me Rock Lee and I kinda stuck with it. Joe Rascal randomly asked me one day what I thought about his name, and I told him it was awesome and suited his character well. I know Justin had a couple of names before he settled with Justin Trash, and I think it’s a great name.” {So do I!)

Q4. – Who are some rappers that inspired you? Are these inspirations what made you start your music career?

JUSTIN: “Some of the biggest inspirations for us were Pharrell and G-Dragon. They both are legends in every field they get involved with and that was a huge factor in us chasing our dreams.”

Q5. – The most popular song you seem to have released is “Bag$” – what do you think of its popularity? Did you expect another song to be more popular?

ROC: “We expected ‘BAG$’ to get a lot of love from the listeners. We were just being ourselves and talking about the things we love and the things we want throughout the song. The flamboyant lyrics with the stylish delivery, I think a lot of people liked that energy from us. The visuals for the track also looked amazing, and I think that also helped grab the attention of a lot of people.”

Q6. – The group image seems to be fun, youthful, yet vintage and nostalgic (due to the aesthetics). Is this the group’s image or just a concept for now?

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JOE: “We grew up with a lot of things that are now considered vintage like Pokémon cards and 16-bit games. As a nod to our childhood, we used them to promote our latest mixtape, ‘CLUB UBB,’ but we’re ready to surprise you all with more visuals and music in 2021.”

Q7. – The songs maintain some Korean lyrics but the real wordplay all happens in English! Does UPTOWN BOYBAND prefer rapping in English or Korean more? Is one language more difficult than the other?

JUSTIN: “The majority of our songs are in English with Korean mixed. You will see a lot more songs in the future with both English and Korean so stay tuned!”

Q8. – How do you feel about K-Pop and K-Hip Hop becoming more popular in America/Canada? Does it still have a long way to go?

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ROC: “I think it’s great to see that. Growing up in Toronto, there weren’t a lot of Asian-American, Asian-Canadian artists in America. K-Pop and K-Hip Hop has definitely come a long way and it’s a joy to see how far it can continue going. That also inspires the younger Asian youth and artists like myself, as people are now more accepting of Asian media and music.”

Q9. – Do you want to be associated with K-Pop? How do you feel when people refer to UPTOWN BOYBAND as K-Hip Hop?

JOE: “Anyone can classify us the way they want, I think the more important thing is how does the music make you feel? We just want to bring new and refreshing sounds that would make it hard for anyone to put us into any particular genre category, but we prefer to be referred to as Alternative K-Pop.”

Q10. – Any words for your old and new fans?

JOE: “To all those that have been through the first chapter with us, we thank you for the love and support! For those that just found us, just want to say we won’t disappoint and we got a lot coming for you! So stay updated with us on Instagram @UPTOWNBOYBAND_ and find us on all streaming platforms! Stay safe and wish you all the best 사랑해! <3″

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There ya have it! This isn’t just another group with a big dream – UPTOWN BOYBAND has real talent, flair, and a interesting combination of skills and sound that make them worth watching out for!

While there are many underground artists in Korea, as we know from shows such as ‘Show Me The Money’ and other interviews, unearthing these oversea artists is a real gem and inspiration for international fans. Due to their abilities to switch between Korean and English, UPTOWN BOYBAND have the power to grow a large fanbase with their attractive rhythm and flow.

What did you think of the boys? Don’t forget to follow their social media and leave a comment down below! Show em some love ❤

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