Jang and his team have had their eyes on Capitol Hill Block Party for years, and last weekend on a sunny Seattle day, they finally took to the stage.
“From the moment I touched the stage,” the Spokane rapper said, “I was living my dream.”
Ever since Jang, who previously went by Jango, had the opportunity to perform alongside Seattle group Kung Foo Grip at the festival three years ago, it’s been on his bucket list.
“I immediately had the vision that one day I was gonna perform on that stage,” he said. “Fast forward three, four, five years later, I’m doing it. I have a crowd that’s receiving me and my energy.”
Jang performed on the Neumos stage this past weekend, right in the heart of the six square blocks closed off for the Block Party. Neumos’ double doors were open all day to let interested listeners wander in and raging, booming music flow out.
Block Party features over 35 artists performing on each day across a laid-back and mainly outdoor space; it can be difficult to cut through the noise and stand out, but Jang made it look easy.
From the moment he took the stage, it was clear that this was not a recital, a live rendition of tracks we could have heard on Spotify, but something entirely different.
Shirt undone, donning a black ski mask and his “king of the 9” crown, he launched into the first song, bouncing across the stage, making use of its whole space.
The lights were dynamic and wild, the visual display behind him (a video backdrop from GiiiRLBAND Productions) producing an explosive atmosphere.
What was most striking about the show was Jang’s ability to create, maintain and manipulate the energy of the room. The nature of the festival is that people accumulate gradually, and often bounce between sets; they aren’t tied to your space by a ticket price.
Jang started out with a crowd, and as the show went on, it became larger. Once they came in, they didn’t even turn to the door.
“One thing my mentor told me,” Jang said after the show, is that “the best thing for an artist to be able to do is read the room and identify what kind of energy they need.
“When you walk in there, and you’re looking at each person in their eyes, you have to make a decision right then and there of how you’re going to approach this group of people.”
For this set, Jang kept his energy on the stage high, interacting with the audience between tracks. At one point, he demonstrated a simple two-step and got the crowd to follow along through one of his songs. At another, he stepped down into the crowd and joined the floor.
Even though he rehearses his sets three times a week, his actual behaviors and choreography were “just free flowing. It’s just freefall. It’s just natural energy.”
Combining that freedom with his keen awareness of the crowd’s dynamics, he got a perfectly engaged audience, culminating in a mosh that replicated his on-stage energy on the floor.
“My job as far as being on that stage is to give them energy,” Jang said. “I’m gonna give you energy, you’re gonna bounce it back.”
Near the end of the set, Seattle rapper Sam Lachow joined Jang for his verse on Jang’s most recent song, “Merchandise.” The two embraced on stage after delivering their verses, the space ringing with springy, wry attitude.
“It’s our responsibility to give them something that will last them hopefully a lifetime. You know, a memory. A moment.”
The show was certainly memorable, garnering praise from the Seattle Times in their wrap-up of the weekend. Music writer Michael Rietmulder noted that “The best Seattle rapper … was actually from Spokane.”
On top of his solo set, Jang was invited to perform with Seattle rockers the Black Tones on the festival’s main stage to a packed out audience of hundreds.
He said that their set “reminds me of what I imagine the old school was, the ’80s and ’90s when you weren’t getting on that stage unless you were talented. It was a very humbling experience.”
Unlike Jang’s rehearsed setlist, the Black Tones tend to play more “off the cuff,” and Jang unexpectedly found himself rapping over an entire song.
“I believe myself to be a Black rock star, so when I’m on my stage with Black rock stars, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is what this feels like. This is what I want.’
“It reminded me of how far we have come, how much we have done to get to where we’re at, and how much I deserve to be here.”
Jang and his team, with Block Party and a run of shows in July behind them, are headed off on another tour soon. He also mentioned that new music is on the way, and other big announcements are soon to come.
It’d be easy to look back on the weekend and just pat themselves on the back, but that doesn’t seem to be the way Jang’s team operates. “We are here to grow,” he said. “We are here to be great. And not just great.”
“We’re here to be one of the greatest, and to be remembered forever.”
Stay up to date on all things Jang by following him on Instagram @Jangolives. There you can also find a video recap of the concert.
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