Monday 29 January 2018

Is Asian Hip Hop About To Become Huge In The West?

The west has never really embraced Asian music. Sure, there are a few diehard weeaboos out there that could probably tell you every song right now in the Japanese charts. But the majority of us know only novelty hits like PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ and perhaps an anime soundtrack or two.

It seems however that things are about to change. Asian music if finally starting to break into the west – and it’s mostly hip hop. Asian rappers are appropriating the sounds of the west, but they’re also throwing in their own local influence.

One such rapper is Indonesian emcee Rich Brian (formerly known as ‘Rich Chigga’). He first attracted widespread attention in 2016 with his video for ‘Dat $tick,’ which sees him boldly choosing to wear a pink polo shirt and fanny bag whilst spitting mean bars over a hard-hitting trap beat.

The video has amassed over 80 million views and prompted the likes of Ghostface Killah to get in touch for a collaborative remix. Rich Brian’s humorous personality has only led him to become more successful, taking to Twitter to write hilarious posts and creating a number of wacky Youtube videos, including one in which he microwaves bread and proceeds to stare awkwardly into the camera.

Rich Brian isn’t the only Asian hip hop artist making waves right now. Another artist is Japanese-Australian rapper Joji – formerly known as the youtuber Filthy Frank who has birthed a number of memes including creating the crazy dance to the Harlem Shake back in 2013. Only recently has he got more serious as a musician under the pen-name Joji.

It’s easy to see why both artists have blown up, given that they both rap largely in English and are as much comedians as they are musicians. However, other artists are now starting to blow up that rely less on being memes, whilst rapping largely in their native tongue such as Chinese rap group Higher Brothers. Their biggest hit is ‘Made In China’ - which jokes about the fact Western audiences refuse to listen to Chinese rap due to the language barrier. 

Meanwhile in New York, female artists such as Yaeji are spitting in English and Korean. Her glossy bangers blend rapping and singing, whilst her geeky-girl image is entirely unique. Like Rich Chigga, she’s reinventing swag and showing that ‘realness’ can mean ‘being yourself’ – you don’t have to be gangster from the projects to be considered real.

The influence is starting to have a reverse effect already and rappers from the West are teaming up with Asian rappers and borrowing beats and lingo. Just listen to this loud posse cut featuring the likes of A$AP Ferg...

Is this the beginning of an Asian revolution in western rap? Will we be hearing these kind of songs on the radio soon? It would certainly seem the language is no longer a barrier. We've already got half-Spanish singles like 'Despacito' dominating the airwaves, plus it's not as if most Western rappers are particularly lyrical is it?  It could be an exciting new direction for popular music as a whole.