Meet CL, the Korean Rapper and Singer Who's About to Take Over the U.S.

In Asia, this pop star needs no introduction. With help from the man who gave the world Justin Bieber, soon she won’t need one in the States either.

Photography by Kevin Amato

You will soon be bombarded by articles about CL, the 23-year-old singer/rapper who is coming to America after conquering Asia with her group 2NE1. These stories will inevitably mention K-pop (because she’s from Korea), and PSY (because they’re labelmates at YG Entertainment), and Scooter Braun (because she is S.B.’s first Korean signee post-“Gangnam Style”). All of these contextual details—which are, predictably, also in this story—might suggest that CL is a novelty aided by famous associations.

But reducing CL to these connections would be a disservice to her electric talent, which deserves the attention on its own. (Witness Diplo’s unsolicited co-sign.) The bold, unique solo records she has already released in Korea (“The Baddest Female” and “MTBD”) are what she calls “risky” for K-pop but—minus the Korean rapping—would make perfect sense here. Musical ability aside, her fluency in English and unmistakably cool style are more significant than her affiliations. So CL is from Korea, like Rihanna is from Barbados, or Lady Gaga is from Long Island. The origin story is important, but don’t let it get in the way of the music.

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