Korean Rappers San E & Mad Clown Battle For Hip-Hop Supremacy in LA

San E and Mad Clown (Credit: Scott Feinblatt)

A jam-packed house is what’s typically needed for the energy of a show to be palpable, but that wasn’t the case on Friday night at Union for Mad Clown and San E, who brought the house down at half capacity. On the second stop of their We Want You tour on the west coast, the Korean rappers treated fans to all their hits and most notable features.

While both rappers had held shows in Los Angeles before with other artists, this was their first full-fledged tour around the country. Throughout the night, San E (real name San Jung) and Mad Clown (Dong-rim Jo) expressed genuine bliss by interacting with fans who would rap all their songs, giving away signed items, not being afraid to get silly at times, and simply giving their very best with their performances.

Given they have overtly different personalities as individuals and as artists, the rappers opted for a competition concept throughout the show to take turns at performing. After opening up their set with their 2015 collaboration “Sour Grapes” and throwing commemorative fake dollars to a hyped up crowd who exploded with glee at the sight of them, the rappers dived into a “Who are you here to see?” cheering battle. Bantering back and forth about who’s more popular, San E announced that the audience would decide after a few songs.

After San E finished his verse on “YGGR Remix,” Mad Clown mocked his jumpy flow and declared, “Imma show you how to rap” and dove right into one of his own tracks. This proved to be the perfect dynamic for them to perform some of their most popular features on songs with other artists, more specifically, the songs they both took part on the different seasons of Korean competition shows like Show Me the Money and Unpretty Rapstar. Some of the highlights were “Superstar,” “Mugunghwa,” “My Zone,” and “I Make it Look Easy.”

Mad Clown (Credit: Scott Feinblatt)

On this specific portion of the show, the stark contrast between the rappers arose — but in a good way. San E’s style veers towards what’s fun and trendy, while Mad Clown focuses more on the message and his enunciation of it, showcasing an overall well-rounded setlist.  

But the battle continued, this time relying on the classic game of rock, paper, scissors, which the rappers played to decide who would perform their set first. With the help of a fan and Sobae, the Korean R&B singer who opened the show with her single “Homegirls,” Mad Clown came out as the winner. Begrudgingly San E said, “It’s gonna be boring for 20 minutes” as he exited the stage.

The mood did not get boring but it did get a tad deep. Mad Clown passionately performed some of his biggest hits like “Fire,” “Love is a Dog From Hell,” and “Lost Without You,” with the help of the crowd who rapped along to every lyric.

San E (Credit: Scott Feinblatt)

Mad Clown went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde at the drop of a beat, changing from being a bit shy and awkward on stage to a forceful lyrical monster. “I’m not a violent person, I’m calm and peaceful,” he told the audience. “I don’t know why my songs are like this. It’s just a song.”

San E, on the other hand, acted as bright and fun as his songs are. Mad Clown got everyone in their feelings, but San E turned it up with jams like “Body Language” and even included an interlude of the popular K-pop song “Bboom Bboom” by Momoland, which the danced the choreography to.

He also has his soft tracks, though. Fans’ spit and sung every word to “Me You” and “A Midsummer Night’s Sweetness.” For “Love Sick,” the rapper brought a fan onstage who had been rapping along to all his songs and serenaded her, hugging her throughout most of the song. After signing an autograph for her, San E wiped happy tears from his eyes.     

Credit: Scott Feinblatt

Being established, chart-topping rappers in Korea, the rappers’ singles, for the most part, come off as commercial bops. And yet, they were both able to reach said status individually thanks to their talent. Continuing with the competition theme after their solo sets, Mad Clown and San E battled it out acapella, and took turns mocking each other one more time. San E even did “Rap Genius,” the 2010 track he won the “Best Hip Hop Song” award with at the Korean Music Awards when he was still unsigned.

To close out the show, San E and Mad Clown performed their latest track “Butterfly,” getting the crowd to dance along with them at the chorus. For the encore, both of them donned a few signature items to cosplay as each other. San E put on round eyeglasses and a beanie, while Mad Clown wore a cap with what was meant to resemble rainbow colored dreads and some sunnies. Wearing the cosplay of each other, they performed “Sour Grapes” once again, this time doing each other’s verses.  

The score was never officially settled their battle results but by the end it was clear that the crowd were the real winners. The rappers’ music and personalities might be different, but the entire show flowed well and there wasn’t a dull moment.  Fans in the barricades had ear to ear smiles, mirroring the rappers’ own. With a group picture including Sobae and DJ Juice, who DJ-ed the entire show, the night came to a close. Before bowing out, San E shared that he would never forget that night in LA, a sentiment that more than one fan could surely relate to.

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