Urban Asia Vol. 4 reflects the mega growth of Pan-Asian music: Listen – VIBE.com


After the popularity of the music performance platform The Rap from china TV show in 2017, Chinese stars like Kris Wu and Jackson Wang started making international deals. At the same time, American media company 88 Rising was hatching new stars like Rich Brian (formerly Rich Chigga) and The Higher Brothers. All of this has led to a very sinocentric take on the Asian hip-hop landscape. Yet Hip-Hop culture was already firmly entrenched in countries like Thailand, Japan and Korea. Due to access to American media and pop culture, many countries in the region were already creating rappers and DJs – some of whom even made it to the United States – long before it exploded in China. And now that the dust has settled on the Chinese phenomenon, these countries are seeing their own scenes explode, ironically through local versions of The Rap from china.


All of this leads to a vibrant and flourishing scene across Asia, where local artists regularly rack up millions of YouTube views on their videos and have chart hits. From India to Indonesia via the Philippines, Hip-Hop invades the airwaves and especially pop culture. Much like the explosive growth of hip-hop in the American market in the late ’80s and early’ 90s, everyone from advertisers to government agencies uses rappers to sell products and get their messages across to a company. enthusiastic and energetic youth. Clear signs of this trend can be seen by New York rap legend Nas and his label Mass Appeal moving to India and immediately signing pioneering rapper Divine. Likewise, the iconic Def Jam label was launched across Asia under the name Def Jam SE Asia – signing new artists in several countries.

Now comes the fourth installment of VIBE, in as many years, a full assortment project of the Urban Asia series featuring b2 Music in Hong Kong – an album that features tracks from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Singapore, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia… and of course China. It is telling that the first single from the album is an exclusive track, “M For Tha Money” by Mongolian star MRS M. This time around MRS M sang and rapped in English, and floats on a robust production of the New York heavyweight Harry Fraud. With the world getting smaller and smaller due to the reach of the internet, Fraud found MRS M on YouTube and invited her to record at her Brooklyn studio, resulting in a new two-song offering.

Another rapper who is making waves in the region is Yung Raja of Singapore, a Tamil Indian raised in the city-state. As part of Def Jam’s expanding Asian roster, it has real cross-appeal as it can be effortlessly expressed in multiple languages, including English. Her track “Mami” is a send-off of Singapore’s cultural mores, with a fun video featuring hot Indian, Chinese and Malaysian hotties. With her dyed green hair and youthful beauty, he raps, “Mami is wearing a sari, not a skirt / Mami looks to be sweeter than dessert.” He looks like he’s having fun and that’s the point.

As in the rest of the world, Asian rap game is dominated by men. But it’s also eclectic and refreshing because of the different cultures involved. In a country like India with 22 official languages, hip-hop scenes appear in every dialect – since the meteoric rise of Divine and the Hindi film that followed. Ravine boy. It’s mind-boggling to find rappers like TRE ESS from little Jharkhand in the northeast of the country, who together with Gravity create DIY tracks and videos – with fluent, confident English and Hindi to a jazzy beat reminiscent of Digable Planets. or A Tribe. Called Quest at the time.

Another queen of the Asian scene is Vietnamese Suboi, who has been rhyming since she was a teenager. And although it was an uphill battle in a country previously dominated by pop and dance music, she was fortunate enough to drop bars for President Obama (who beatboxed!) At a youth forum then that he was touring the region in 2016. the card, but since then she has released a series of quality singles and an EP, making her an OG before she turned 30. On her song “Cho Khong”, she switches smoothly between rap and song on the ironies of life and success, on a ground four that would work for Lizzo or Doja Cat.

Hong Kong’s Haysen Cheng has one of the worst voices in Asian gaming. His growling baritone flows smoothly over “Restart” as he rhymes about the decision to become a rapper after a promising basketball career with phrases like “I wanted a pair of Brons until I got them. / I used to want to go to college in the fall / born rich had to start over from the bottom. Meanwhile in Shanghai, former Keith Ape collaborator Charity Ssb turns into a dark, drugged trap banger that feels dirty, but will also make you want what he’s got.

At 25, Reezy is already Cambodia’s best-known rapper. Part of the Klap Ya Handz label, which puts Khmer hip-hop on the Asian map, Reezy displays an affinity for old-school hip-hop on “Z Back” – with a funky pun and groove-up. tempo that will have you want to take out the roller skates. Japan-based Kazuo is even younger and spits out rhymes in English and Japanese, having honed his bars at open mic parties in his native New York City. On “Attention! He lets you know he’s in a unique space, half black and half Japanese. With the tongue firmly in his cheek, he proclaims “I’m the new face of J-rap”, and he just might be.

One of the TV shows inspired by The Rap of China was The King of Vietnamese Rap, and its ratings were astronomical in the first season. One of the brightest stars to come out of this competition is 22-year-old Hieuthuhai, who appears in volume 4 with his simple and eye-catching feat “Bat Nhac Len”. Harmony ‘racked up over 16 million views on YouTube last year. Elsewhere on the album, Tarvaethz is a Thai newcomer signed to Def Jam Thailand, and Shuwu is also brand new from Mongolia – and produced by the production company of MRS M. The album also contains two instrumentals: The glitchy “Cascades “from India’s Owlist, and the funky India-cinematic” Shaanti “by Koothu.

Finally, the album features a bonus track from Mos Def’s DJ / Producer Preservation, taken from an album he composed only from old Chinese records he found while digging boxes in Hong Kong. “Dragon Town” is a dirty track of Cantonese funk with dusty samples, snippets of lyrics and steamy bars from Hong Kong rapper Young Queenz. This will bring you back to the Kung Fu Theater on Saturday afternoon, and it’s the perfect ending to an album that touches so many different styles and sounds.

Check out the full project below.


Lyle L. Maltby

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