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Meet The Two Black Women Who Want To Break Into The Korean Music Scene

"We aren’t trying to be idols. We just want to create and perform music that we feel connected to and share it with the people who support us," duo Coco Avenue said.

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The duo released a single last week where they sing in Korean, and have faced accusations of cultural appropriation.

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In an interview with BuzzFeed News they said they first met in 2012 through YouTube when people kept pointing out that they looked alike.

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Jenny said that in 2013 they took part in a Korean reality show called #MYKPOP which led to the pair moving to LA to pursue a career in the Korean music industry.

“Since then, we have been establishing ourselves in the K-music scene in LA by performing at events like Kcon, LA Korean Festivals, and Night Markets.”

They also had their first performance in Seoul last year.

The girls also added that there’s a rumour that they’re part Asian but they’re not.

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At first, they were a 6-member group and they wanted to be K-Pop idols.

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Jenny said: "Initially (when we had 6 members), our goal was to be K-Pop idols but it soon changed when we started seeing that the portrayal of our culture in K-Pop was based off of stereotypes perpetrated by western media.

"Because of this, our focus and motivation started to shift. At this point, our goal is to be the positive image of black people in the Korean music industry. We have developed a sound and image that fits who we are and we don’t plan to try and mould ourselves into K-Pop idols."

Despite reports that they are a K-Pop group, the women have said that they actually see themselves as K-RnB/K-HipHop.

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"Regardless of race or music style, but because we sing in Korean, media is going to naturally call it K-Pop. We have a different vibe than mainstream K-Pop," they said.

"We aren’t trying to be idols. We just want to create and perform music that we feel connected to and share it with the people who support us," they added.

Jenny said that their biggest challenge is for them to be taken seriously.

She said: "We live in K-town LA and while Korean people here think it’s cool that we sing in Korean, we weren’t getting booked over Korean artists who may or may not have had better content."

"We don’t have that problem anymore lately because we have done a lot of performances which have made people take us a little more seriously."

Jenna said that if there was a chance for a collab she would love for it to be with Yoon Mirae, who is half Korean and African-American.

Coco Avenue

Talking about Yoon Mirae, Jenna said: "She's a pioneer in the Korean hip hop industry, and her music is inspiring."

Jenny picked Korean artist Dean as someone to collaborate with. She said: "I love his writing style, voice, and stage presence."

Jenny said that as a child she listened to a lot of Alicia Keys and her K-Pop inspirations included Dean, Yoon Mirae, and Hyorin. Jenna said: "I'm inspired by people like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Andre 3000. These are people whose music had a message."

People have praised the duo for addressing cultural appropriation and not calling themselves a K-Pop group.

This is the difference btw CoCo Avenue & exp edition, they r ABSOLUTELY NOT THE SAME & CoCo Avenue is not calling t… https://t.co/SZ3ys6h5WR

Talking about the use of black face in the Korean entertainment industry, Jenna said: "I think the reason why black face and appropriation are such a big problem in Korea is because the African-American voice in the Korean entertainment industry is so small.

"It's irresponsible to draw elements from black popular culture without researching what could be offensive to us, and yet that continues to happen."

"We hope that our entry into Korean entertainment will open doors for other people of colour, like people like Yoon Mi Rae and Sam Okyere have done for us. The more we get involved the harder it will be for things like this to happen without outright admonishment," said Jenna.

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The release of their single has opened up a debate on the place of black people in K-Pop.

Everyone tryna be a kpop star

y is everyone saying kpop derived from black culture/music???? maybe k hip hop but u can't say that for all of kpop.....

Many people have defended the duo.

While y'all hoes out here saying Cocoa Avenue can't do K-pop. The majority of your favs songs are written by black folks. #FACTS

exp are yt privileged koreaboo asses while Coco Ave. are 2 beautiful talented woc who have more than a right to be… https://t.co/rGAGLHrrYK

Responding to criticism, Jenna said: "What those people don't realise is that we aren't trying to be a K-Pop group.

"We aren't trying to fit a Korean standard of beauty. We don't want to lose weight. We don't want pale skin, or perfect faces."

She added: "We want to be 100% who we are, and do what we love, and encourage a few people along the way."

Ikran is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Ikran Dahir at ikran.dahir@buzzfeed.com.

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