There are some very familiar names at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles: Katy Perry at #7, Usher at #5, and Nelly holding at #3 (in the third week of October). But topping all of these well-established artists is not only an unfamiliar name, but an unfamiliar sight.
On October 4, the Asian American group, Far East Movement (aka FM), first reached the top of the charts with the song, “Like a G6”, from their newest album “Free Wired”. It’s the first time an Asian American musical group has ever had the #1 song in America.
Consisting of three MC’s, Kev Nish (Japanese/Chinese), Prohgress (Korean), J-Splif (Korean), and DJ Virman (Filipino), FM is an electro-rap group hailing from Koreatown in Los Angeles. The group formed in 2003, releasing their music online and performing in L.A.’s nightclub scene, surprising some who knew their music before seeing them in person.
“We always set out to make music not thinking about race,” said FM member Kev Nish. “We grew up in downtown L.A., in the clubs, bumpin’ a free wired playlist of hip hop, trance, alternative, pop and more … so when we make music, there shouldn’t be a race attached, just a feelin’.”
The success of Far East Movement signals a growing shift in America. A Black man is president. A lesbian is an “American Idol” judge. Bruno Mars, whom FM dethroned on the charts, is Filipino/Puerto Rican. There is no denying the visible face of this country is changing. “Other” Americans in previously unheld positions just aren’t as peculiar anymore.
“I think pop music looks more like the populace, as it should be!” said Larry Mizell Jr., host of KEXP radio’s “Street Sounds”, about FM’s success. “That would have been something surprising to people even ten years ago.”
FM’s Free Wired album is letting America know that young Asian Americans aren’t that different after all. Asian Americans are a part of mainstream culture, involved in the hip hop scene, drink, and dance as much as the next nightclub goer. The “hook” or main chorus for their #1 hit, “Like a G6” (G6 is a private jet), says it all:
Poppin’ bottles in the ice, like a blizzard
When we drink we do it right gettin slizzard
Sippin sizzurp in my ride, like the Three 6
Now I’m feeling so fly like a G6
“It’s one of those songs that is very catchy with an infectious beat,” said Korean American DJ Christyle, who spins at Seattle Asian American nightclubs and has worked with FM. “So whether you knew the song or not and if you kept hearing it in the club, on the radio or on your friend’s iPod, you will eventually love it or at least say, ‘I’m fly like a G6’ once in your lifetime.”
Martin Kierzenbaum, head of Cherrytree Records saw this potential, signing FM to Cherrytree Records, a label that includes Lady Gaga.
“You guys have a lifestyle and party that we want to be invited to,” Kierzenbaum told Kev Nish.
Free Wiredspeaks to Far East Movement’s club roots. FM eschews depth and complexity in their lyrics; preferring songs about partying with oft repeated lines, the easier to shout along to. Their topics are similar to a lot of “club music” — party, money, porn, as Larry Mizell Jr. puts it. But I liked it. Free Wired does what it sets out to do. The high energy, heavy electro beats make you want to dance. The catchy hooks and the clarion call to party, then party some more is hard to resist. And not only does this album make you move, but it’s moving Asians to a more central place in America itself. That’s definitely something worth poppin’ bottles to.