LiFTED LiSTS: Best Emerging Artists of 2022
The talent pool keeps growing and growing
LiFTED’s focus from the jump has been to shine the spotlight on MCs, DJs, B-Girls and B-Boys, designers, artists, clubs, groups, and anyone who is doing dope Hip Hop related things in the Pan-Asian region. After a year and nine months, LiFTED is well on the way to achieving the goal of ‘Elevating Asian Hip Hop’ by publishing 15 stories per week to inform, entertain, and educate. This December, we are doing our annual wrap-up of the year with LiFTED LiSTS - our picks of the good, the exceptional, and even the downright awful of 2022. Here is Asia’s Hip Hop culture through LiFTED’s lens.
There are many ways to judge emerging artists like their follower count starts exploding, their songs are getting a lot of play, or they are pulling up a lot of features. There’s also something that has less to do with numbers and more to do with feel. Emerging artists aren’t just following trends, but they are creating them. They have a style that is being emulated by others instead of just copying what is hot on the block.
Emerging artists walk, talk, and sound like they are going to be around for the long haul. This year, LiFTED picks 10 artists who have what it takes to make waves in the Asian Hip Hop game for a long time.
With an album aptly titled Boy of the Year, Warren Hue has lived up to the hype. Dropped in the scene in the middle of 2021 with a feature on Atarashii Gakko!’s ‘Freaks,’ the 88rising star has been doing things many other 20-year-olds wish they could do.
Played Coachella? Check!
Four features on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings soundtrack? Yup!
Viral video with nearly five million views with Rich Brian? Of course!
Warren Hue is the real deal. He’s Hip Hop and Pop, but keeps it experimental with songs like ‘W’ and ‘Internet Boy.’ He’s in demand for shows as he helps sell the tickets for the Head in the Clouds global invasion. He’s also graced the cover for LiFTED and we can see him climbing the ranks on the LiFTED 50 very soon. Warren is one of the most exciting new faces in Asian Hip Hop today.
pH-1’s name has been on everyone’s tongue this year. Although the H1ghr Music MC has been around for a minute, it wasn’t until this year that he has blown up like a supernova. His sophomore album, BUT FOR NOW LEAVE ME ALONE arrived this year, and it comprises 13 stellar tracks. Each one sounds fresh and unique to its own, with no hints of repetition or imitation on it. If anything, the Korean-American MC has cemented his place as one of the biggest names in all of Korean Hip Hop right now, and there are zero signs of him stopping for anything. Dare we say that pH-1 is the heir to Jay Park’s mighty throne? It might be too early for that, but pH-1 is definitely making all the right moves at the right time.
There was a lot of debate about putting Gerdnang on this list not because they aren’t emerging, but because they are so good. Individual members are blowing up into Pop stars with HURRYKNG doing very well for himself, and HIEUTHUHAI throbbing hearts. But overall, when the crew gets together, things just work really well. In June, GERDNANG released ‘Mama Mia,’ which went on to get nearly four million views and still bangs in the club nearly half a year later.
Since Outkast broke up, being a duo in Hip Hop has been out of fashion. Azadi Records’ Seedhe Maut is here to bring it back. Encore ABJ and Calm, along with unofficial third member Sez on the Beat, are taking Indian Hip Hop from its gully present into a future that is wide open. This year, the duo released their third album Nayaab, in May, and it’s blown up past all expectations. With silky smooth vocals and sonic experimentations, Seedhe Maut is breaking the mold of what Indian rappers can be one release at a time.
In November, we published an article on who we think are the torchbearers for the future of Malaysian Hip Hop. The Penang rapper DATO’ MAW is one of them. The Rap scene in Malaysia is eclectic and diverse in a lot of ways. However, the language in which MCs express themselves naturally falls under the country’s native and official tongue, Malay. DATO’ MAW takes a different approach with his lyricism, branding it as Cina Music, which sees the incorporation of Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Malay, and English into his music. He’s rising up the ranks fast and has been collaborating with some of the biggest names in the region. Jump on while you can now, because the DATO’ MAW bandwagon isn’t stopping for anyone.
Can females in South Korea be successful in Korean Hip Hop without being from a K-Pop group? Bryn is finding out because she’s Hip Hop all the way. She came out of the gate firing this year as she had a dope verse on RAMENGVRL’s ‘Aint No MFer’ remix with pH-1 and Ash-B. Then, she finished the year off with ASIATIC.WAV’s ‘Members Only.’ Bryn has the drive and the potential to make it big on her own terms.
Way back in June of 2021, LiFTED interviewed Jerry Hsieh, who was dressing the hottest rappers on MTV’s The Rappers in Taiwan. We asked him who had stood out on the show that had 1,200 contestants try to get a slot, and surprisingly, he mentioned SiNNER MOON. Fast forward a year and some change and SiNNER MOON didn’t win the competition, but he is one of the most in-demand performers from the show. He got in a lot of ears, too, by putting out an all-English single on ASIATIC.WAV called ‘X MAN,’ which shows his growth from only the year before.
In choreographer Honey J’s debut ‘Honey Drop,’ Lil Cherry has to rap at about 128 beats per minute to keep up with the ‘Planet Rock’-like Electro beat. She’s up to the task of fast-rapping in the Miami Bass style, and even keeps pushing more boundaries on “Catwalk,’ a Juke joint with a feature from Rico Nasty. Lil Cherry is so artsy and skilled at taking people to the edge to get them talking, that LiFTED has high hopes that she will have a massive 2023.
“21's MVP/Nobody like me/Blessings, blessings, blessings/All come from life lessons/Wanna know what's next? Keep guessing,” opens Priya Ragu’s first single, ‘Illuminous’, and she’s saying it for what it exactly is. She introduced herself to the world in 2021 with her debut mixtape damnshetamil, along with a feature on the UK producer duo Jungle’s album. One would think that was it, and that she would be taking a break after such an exhaustive run.
That’s where you’re wrong.
Ragu continued on her hot streak in 2022 and dropped more tunes for the masses this year. They’re breezy, infectious, and have a sonic presence that quite literally forces you to groove along with it. You can’t box her into genre-specific spaces. She isn’t just R&B, neither is she just a Desi singer-songwriter, and she’s definitely not just an MC either. The perfect example of this would be ‘Adalam Va!’, an infectious song that is a mix of so many things that we just have to call it a banga. She’s Priya Ragu, and she’s ready to take on the world.
Novel Friday is representing a faction of Hong Kong rappers that break the mold - and then he’s breaking that mold. He’s not really an Emo rapper, but he does that. He’s not an R&B singer but he does that, too. He also rhymes with a dope flow when the track calls for it. This kid got signed to JB’s Greytone label in 2020 and has released a string of hits and an album and the studio junkie claims he has at least 60 more tracks up his sleeve. Raised in Hong Kong as a third culture kid [his mom is Thai] NOVEL FRIDAY appears to have a wide skill set and appeal, as he won ‘Best R&B Song’ at this year’s Whats Good Hip Hop awards.