The New Age Of Asian Hip-Hop


The New Wave Of Asian Hip-Hop

Once baby-faced Indonesian rapper Full Chigga dropped his solitary “Dat $tick” in early on 2016, the music world was confused. Was this fanny-pack, pink polo-wearing youngster for real, or was he simply a meme? Both way, the song became a viral hit. Intended for most, it was a brief moment of entertainment within an oversaturated internet music market. But for others, it was an important step in an emerging movement that has been steadily gaining impetus over the past few years–enter the Asian hip-hop wave.

Hip-hop has a worldwide reach like never before. From its roots in ’70s, the genre has always served the voice of the marginalized and the underdog. Today, a new selection of international youth raised on memes and Soundcloud are taking on the culture his or her own, creating a whole new form of ‘convergence culture. ‘

In a meeting with Genius, Rich Chigga confesses to attempting to duplicate the substantial trap style he heard on the web—he simply needed to have “some frightening ass lines.” At 16 years of age, RIch Chigga (genuine name Brian Imanuel) had officially become well known as a Vine comic. He associated with the music he got notification from America, and reflected it back through his perspective:

12 in the morning, pop shells for a living
And berry gon’ smell blood trail every minute
Rogue wave on you niggas, no fail when I hit ‘em
Every time I see a pig, I don’t hesitate to kill ’em

Off the accomplishment of a few singles, he set out on a U.S. visit and blended with any semblance of Post Malone, XXXTENTACION (who is highlighted on “Gospel”), and even Pharrell. Advanced by New York-based media creation organization 88Rising, the visit is a piece of a technique that is paying off for Asian traverse culture.

Drawing on his music industry experience and time at Vice, 88rising originator Sean Miyashiro disclosed the organization’s inspiration to Forbes:

There is no definitive media brand that represents and celebrates Asian culture, especially for millennials and young people… The big thing for us is that there’s four billion Asian people. There’s two billion millennials between 16 to 34. They’ve been waiting for a media brand that speaks to their taste, but also celebrates and communicates that to people outside of Asia. That’s what we’re doing. We want to not just cover culture, but we want to create it. We want to create big moments.

It’s the new face of Asian culture that has never truly had a voice in well known media some time recently, one that inclines toward the style and verses of dark American hip-jump. This incorporates the personality legislative issues of being a minority, yet has additionally prompted different inquiries of social allocation, including Rich Chigga’s disputable utilization of the n-word (even his name is a delicate subject for some).

Surprisingly, he conceded that his utilization of the word was a slip-up amid his Verified meeting with Genius:

If I have a song that blows up, I’m like this kid and I say the n-word, would people be like, ‘Holy shit that song is so cool and he said the n-word, I think I’ll let it slide?’ That’s what I was thinking. I was basically trying to make people less sensitive to the word and taking the power out of that word. But then I realized I’m totally not in the position to do that. I was like ‘I fucked up.’ So now I just don’t say it anymore.

Asian American craftsmen have attempted to soften into standard accomplishment up the past (MC Jin came nearest with tune “Learn Chinese” in 2004). While Rich Chigga is illustrative of this minute right now, there are numerous different specialists shaking up the business with their music and style.

At the point when Korean music is specified, images of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” and the excessively delivered, sugary K-fly of Girls Generation or Super Junior commonly rung a bell. While that in itself is a multimillion dollar industry (Japan and South Korea are the main non-Western nations in the main 10 worldwide music industries), and Psy is still selling out massive stadiums in Korea, a flourishing Korean underground scene is also on the rise.

Rapper Dumbfoundead grew up in Koreatown, L.A., and has been a mainstay in the American battle rap scene since the 2000s. After a brief attempt at acting, he returned to music in 2016, releasing an album and embarking on career in promoting. He recently launched the record label BORN CTZN as a way of promoting Asian and Asian American acts (the name is a nod to Chris Rock’s politically charged debut comedy album Born Suspect).

Not only is Dumb championing great music at home and abroad (he’s currently touring in Korea) but he boasts skills in rapping bilingually and addressing issues unique to the Asian American experience. This is a conscious move to continue breaking down stereotypes around the “model minority”, as well as address issues of race and culture living as a child of immigrant parents in the U.S.

On his track “Mellow Yellow” he plays with this idea:

I see your parents are worried you’re fucking with yellow boys now
Tell ‘em that they should be worried I’m thinking of hanging around

It’s this unique third-culture perspective that is drawing in listeners from similar backgrounds. Asian American audiences look up to artists like Dumbfoundead, and take pride in their cultural heritage while simultaneously embracing their Western upbringing. In an age where media representation and racial tensions are constantly discussed, the significance of this cannot be understated.

Dumb’s latest release, Foreigner is a way of capturing unique Korean voices with American influences. It’s the first of three EPs planned throughout the year and features guest vocals from popular acts such as DOK2, Simon Dominic, and Jessi.

Dumb explained that after making yearly trips to Korea for a decade, he was inspired to begin this project::

I have collaborated with a few artists out in Korea but in the last five years the music industry, specifically in the genre of hip-hop, has changed drastically… Times have changed now and language has become less important as music has become international, the timing felt right for me to finally put a project out here.

This shift in the industry is having ripple effects across the scene. Far East Movement—of former “Like a G6” fame—also dropped its own Korean influenced album in 2016, aptly titled Identity. The group first rose to fame with 2010’s “Like a G6,” which not only was a huge international hit, but was the very first song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts by any Asian American artist. Under major label pressure to conform to a certain image, the band felt compelled to react in the exact opposite way, by promoting their name in a very literal sense. They told Billboard:

When we were first starting in the music industry people were telling us to… change our name from Far East movement because it’s ‘too Asian.’ It was a different time, but that type of stuff stays with you and affects your perspective… Identity is a Far East Movement, in a sense, bridging artists from the east with artists from the west while fusing different genres we love

Conceived CTZN signees Year of the Ox also perceive the significance of representing Asian American voices in the industry. Initially based in New York, JL and Lyricks moved to LA for a change of scene and to work with Dumbfounded. Their single “Seven Rings” is a fan most loved and as of late crossed 1.5 million views on Youtube just over a year after its release:

The gathering dropped its self-titled presentation EP not long ago. Lead single “Stampede” is dense with witty jokes and Asian social references (Dragonball Z, various Asian foods, and so forth.). They even recognize the energy of image god Brian Emanuel:

Well, wait ‘til they get a load of us
They gonna need to get a bowl of pho
To recover from something as cold as us
Your chick call me Rich Chigga
Play it in the background
Shout out to Indonesia

The Korean-American bridge is best exemplified by the popularity of “IT G MA” in 2015. A curious case of cultural appropriation going both ways, the track was originally a flip of an OG Maco beat by Keith Ape, which was then re-flipped for the remix featuring a stellar line-up of some of America’s hottest underground rappers.

The hook is a gesture of welcome across race and language for his contemporaries to be part of his underwater squad:

잊지 마
Underwater squad
여전히 몸엔 camo
Orca ninjas go rambo

The growing success of Korean artists also recently included high profile collaborations between the likes of CL and Skrillex, Diplo and Riff Raff, G-Dragon, Baauer and M.I.A., and BTS’ Rap Monster and Wale.

Asian culture can be notoriously conservative and has looked west for much of its artistic inspiration for years, especially with regard to consumable mass media. But now, the fact that Western producers and artists are slowly looking east for inspiration speaks volumes.

In fact, CL’s hit summer single last year “Lifted” is an overt nod to the influence of hip-hop in Korean culture as a lyrical and musical interpolation of Wu Tang’s “Method Man”:

Upside downside, inside outside
Hittin’ you from every angle, there’s no doubt
Poetry in motion, coast to coast and
Rub it in your skin like lotion


There is certainly an affinity between North american hip-hop artists and Asian kitchenware culture that can be traced from Wu-Tang Clan’s entire aesthetic all the way up to Kendrick’s character Kung Fu Kenny, and even obsessive hypebeast culture including Ayo & Teo’s use of facemasks (an anti-pollution utility in China which has since been appropriated for fashion purposes).

But, it’s not only South Korea having all the fun. Hip-hop is now even just one deep, rural China. Irrespective of tight government control (or maybe because of), Chinese language underground culture is growing exponentially. Artists such as Aristophanes, Bohan Phoenix, and Higher Brothers are rapping in Mandarin (and their own dialects) over music directly influenced by American music.

Higher Brothers explained in an interview that hip-hop for them is definitely a love. They discovered with the aggression and the vitality and were compelled to publish their own music in order to have fun, even if the only way they could get their practical the music was through illegitimate VPNs. All their debut album Black Pickup truck’s cab, which dropped the other day, also features collaborations with North american rappers Jay Park, George clooney Rebel, and Famous Dex.

The four rappers are acutely aware of the go up of Asian hip-hop culture and also recently released a track with Keith Ape as a touch of eastern solidarity. Referring to their particular position lurking behind the Great Firewall of China, the song unwraps with an English introduction before expounding on the rewards and pitfalls of the digital age:

There’s no Skype, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram
We use WeChat, yeah-e

Asians are famously under-represented in popular Western media. Performers such as these are simply a few key good examples of rappers and manufacturers seizing the moment to make their voices observed in an important and long-lasting way. As Chigga declared on “Gospel”:

Everybody tryna get on a song but
What is the purpose when I’m not the feature?
Whoa, tryna be the GOAT but I just see them walkin’ by my door
Make the country proud, I got the governor wearin’ all my clothes

A curious two-way cultural exchange is happening right now between east and western world. Going deeper than the meme reveals a significant cultural blend that music artists and producers are taking notice of. This ethnic convergence is deeply interesting and can only produce better things from here. All we need to do is pour another glass of soju, relax and continue to enjoy riding this wave.

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