Is North Korea ready for rap music?
Regardless of the musical preferences of the people in one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, two Washington, D.C., rappers are headed to North Korea to film a music video in two weeks. According to a report by the Washington Post, after surpassing their fundraising goal of $6,000 on a Kickstarter campaign, two aspiring rappers hailing from Southeast D.C. and Landover, Maryland, named Pacman and Peso, are getting geared up to travel to Pyongyang.
According to their Kickstarter profile, the rappers chose North Korea as their video location because of the notoriety that it would create. “Serendipity has brought about a rare opportunity for the duo to join a one-of-a-kind trip to North Korea, where they will be able to shoot a music video that will showcase their talent and create a buzz for themselves.”
The unsigned artists, Pacman, 19 and Peso, 20, with the help of Ramsey Aburdene, an aspiring producer and co-founder of Forest Hills Tenleytown Music Group, a homemade music studio where the two rappers have begun recording, aim to achieve musical success through an innovative channel of distribution that has gained popularity—doing it yourself. Without the backing of big-name labels, the artists are responsible for producing, marketing and distributing their work. With the help of such platforms as Kickstarter and YouTube, it almost seems possible. Yet they still needed that extra thing that will get people talking—and that’s when North Korea came up.
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With the help of a huge donation of $5,100 by a wealthy hedge fund manager named James Passin, and several smaller ones by another 179 people, the duo had $10,400 to spend on their trip. Now Pacman and Peso (whose real names are Anthony Bobb and Dontray Ennis), Aburdene and North Korea expert Michael Bassett have their tickets purchased and visas approved for travel.
Although the team is not set to leave for another two weeks, an official goodbye party was held in their honor and attended by many close friends and supporters, some of whom were sporting specially made “DMV to DMZ” T-shirts. DMV is referring the nickname given to the geographical location of the capital city and its neighboring suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, while DMZ is the abbreviation for demilitarized zone, the heavily guarded area that separates North and South Korea.
The song to be performed for the music video has yet to be written, and the concept is that the song will be inspired -- at least partially -- by their visit. According to Kickstarter, Bassett was able to prearrange a special karaoke party bus as one of their principal locations while in Pyongyang, which will likely help keep up appearances of the stereotypical rap video but that’s not necessarily what they want. “Even it’s not a standard, crazy, party-like thing, I’ll enjoy the anthropological side,” Auberdene said. On that same note, the group isn’t traveling to the rogue nation under the guise of diplomacy as some others have. “We’re not trying to be political heroes or anything like that,” Auberdene said. “We understand there is terrible stuff going on in North Korea, but there is terrible stuff going on here that people aren’t straight up about.”
Pacman and Peso's music can be accessed here.