Pacman and Peso have never traveled much beyond the impoverished suburbs of Washington where they live. Yet after a successful internet fundraising drive, the unsigned hip-hop duo will on Saturday next week embark on a trip with an unlikely destination, for a video shoot they hope will jump-start their career — North Korea.
After raising US$10,400 from their Kickstarter campaign, they will first fly to China and then on to Pyongyang, where they plan to film songs such as God Bless Amerika on a party bus. Neither of them have flown on an aircraft, or even traveled more than a short distance from Washington.
Comparisons are inevitably being made with Dennis Rodman, the former basketball player whose visits to North Korea resulted in an unlikely friendship with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. However, Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, unsigned artists in search of a record deal that will lift them out of poverty, are on the cusp of a very different kind of adventure.
The trip has been facilitated by Mike Bassett, 34, a former Iraq war veteran who was stationed in South Korea for seven years. Bassett has coordinated several cultural exchanges with North Korea and traveled extensively in the country since restrictions were eased in 2010.
At their leaving party in Washington on Thursday, the pair provided well-wishers an introduction to their debut mixtape.
Once or twice, the crowd broke out into chants of “North Korea.”
However, no-one really seemed to know exactly why they the pair were traveling to the dictatorship, least of all Pacman and Peso.
“I’m a thrill-seeker, I don’t fear nothing,” said Pacman, a smiley, baby-faced teenager, whose real name is Anthony Bobb. Pacman said people keep telling him not to go. “Me personally, I don’t pay too much to politics, so I can’t say what is right.”
His serious-looking partner Peso was more reticent.
“I’m excited — the only thing I’m not excited about is the plane,” he said, adding: “We’re changing the game. Nobody has shot a video in North Korea like we’re about to do.”
Asked if he was worried for his safety, Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis, replied: “You don’t think this is a dangerous place to be living at right now? There’s your answer then.”
The idea that Pacman and Peso are just as likely to be subject to arbitrary detention, arrest and mistreatment in the streets around their home as Pyongyang has become a theme in the promotion surrounding their trip.
It was the thrust of a piece profiling the pair in the Washington Post, which helped them easily surpass their fundraising goal of US$6,000.
“We’re not trying to be political heroes or anything like that,” said the duo’s manager, Ramsey Aburdene.
“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,” Aburdene said.
Yet beneath the bravado, there appears to be at least a hint of anxiety on the part of the two young rappers, who are being carried along by the momentum.
At one point during a pre-show interview, Peso seemed only half-joking when he talked about the pair maybe being killed in North Korea.
“If we don’t die, it will probably be a big life-changer,” he said. He looked a little uncertain, before adding: “Can I ask you a question? What do you think is going to happen when we go over there?”
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses