With her alluring, bilingual mixture of hip-hop, house, and pop, Korean-American producer, songwriter, and DJ Yaeji instantly gained an adoring fan base and widespread critical acclaim when her first two EPs appeared in 2017. She quickly became a mainstay at music festivals and clubs throughout the world, and following collaborations with Charli XCX and Robyn, she reached a new level of pop sophistication with her 2020 mixtape, What We Drew.
Born in Flushing, Queens, Kathy Yaeji Lee was raised in Atlanta until third grade, when her parents returned to Korea, eager to immerse her in their Korean roots. There, she attended various American schools and studied Korean, bolstering her bilingual abilities. While attending college at Carnegie Mellon University, she focused on graphic design and East Asian studies, but the most pivotal influence was the college radio station, which exposed her to underground electronic music. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she delved into the local dance music scene. She was featured on tracks by Mall Grab and Viers, and her debut single, "New York 93," appeared on her Godmode-issued, self-titled 2017 EP. Atop throbbing bass, Lee alternated between a dreamy whisper and languid rapping, singing in English and Korean about identity, anxiety, and beauty standards. She quickly followed with the more insular EP2, which featured "Drink I'm Sippin' On" and a cover of Drake's "Passionfruit."
Both EPs were rapturously received, establishing Yaeji as one of the most original, charismatic figures in both club music and left-field pop. In 2018, she self-released a more introspective 2018 single titled "One More," and remixed Charli XCX's song "Focus." She then guested on XCX's 2019 single "February 2017," also featuring Clairo, and remixed Robyn's "Beach2k20." Signing to XL, Yaeji released the elaborate, energetic mixtape What We Drew in 2020, which included the singles "Waking Up Down" and the title track. ~ Neil Z. Yeung & Paul Simpson