What do BLACKPINK and BIGBANG have in common? No, we’re not talking about the alleged relationship between Gdragon and BLACKPINK’s Jennie – although that’s a good guess.
Rumors aside, it is a fact that one African-American guitarist is the live axe man for both globally popular bands. And that man is Justin “GuitarSlayer” Lyons. Although many fans aren’t familiar with the name, Lyons has been the main tour guitarist for both BLACKPINK and BIGBANG’s live sets all over the world. He first got involved with Kpop giant YG Entertainment when he was recommended to the company by Gil Smith – Lil Wayne’s music director. It was around the time that BIGBANG was looking for musicians to join them on their world tour. This was what sparked Lyons’ entry into the world of Kpop stardom.
Before that, he was touring with American rnb sensation Vivian Green, one of the most underrated and influential voices in contemporary neo-soul. As a veteran tour and session guitarist/producer, Lyons is a living example of the musical links between Krnb and American soul, both of which have shaped the evolution of modern Kpop.
What does it take to become the tour guitarist accompanying the likes of BLACKPINK, BIGBANG, New Edition, Lil Wayne, Gdragon, and even Toni Braxton? For starters, the self-taught guitarist is a stickler for detail. And he’s been at it since he was a kid. Lyons’ first guitar was given to him when he was just 5 years old. At 11, he became the music director at their local church. As a young teen, he almost became the bassist for the Mississippi Mass Choir – but his mother declined the invitation on account of his age.
In short, the man’s musical background played a huge role in developing the technical musician and producer that he is today. In fact, GuitarSlayer’s prowess has led to him having his own signature PRS guitar and strings from Cleartone. He’s also known to use different Boss effects pedals for fine-tuning his sound during live performances. And on top of his obsession with guitars and stompboxes, Lyons has also become famous for his onstage theatrics and personality. It’s no surprise that sharing the spotlight with the likes of BLACKPINK and BIGBANG entails a unique combination of technical music expertise and a willingness to fully shine onstage. And Lyons has both in spades.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has compromised live tour dates across the globe. This means that we won’t be seeing Lyons nor any of our favorite YG acts touring live in the U.S. anytime soon. However, this doesn’t mean that these musicians are on hiatus.
Lyons continues to tease upcoming content on Instagram with musicians like Omar Dominick and The Band Six. Meanwhile, Gdragon is reportedly working on new music with his own group – and so are other former members of BIGBANG. And we all know that BLACKPINK is definitely busy working on new projects as well. We can’t help but wonder how touring with GuitarSlayer will shape the new music from these YG veterans, or if he will be directly involved with production. Whether or not the global live music scene returns to its full glory, we can look forward to Lyons taking a larger role in shaping Kpop.