LiFTED LiSTS: Best Music Videos of 2023
2023 was a banner year for Asian Hip Hop visuals
Music videos are the currency of Hip Hop artists today. If an underground artist hits a few thousand views on YouTube, they are starting to bubble. If an MC hits a milli, that’s big time. As soon as the view counter starts veering toward multiple millions, that’s a superstar in the making for sure.
This year was a monumental year for Asian Hip Hop videos. Countless artists used their creativity to blast their songs and visuals out to their fans. With amazing artists like DABOYWAY, Jessi, RAMENGVRL, Emiway Bantai, and more putting out extravagant work, it was tough to pick an order, but we looked at numbers, vibes, creativity, and listened to the word on the streets to present the best videos of 2023.
‘POGO’ DABOYWAY & MARK B
Thailand’s Thaitanium has been cooking since they made their big comeback, and one of the main reasons for that is DABOYWAY doing so much dopeness. He killed it with ‘Cake Diet’ a year ago, and in 2023, his video ‘POGO’ is the best video of the year. It combines everything that makes a video good in 2023 - a thumping track, booties in every direction, warp-speed edits, and lyrics that make viewers want to watch it over and over again. RUN THOSE NUMBERS UP!
LiFTED caught up with DABOYWAY in Bangkok to ask him about ‘POGO.’ He said, “I’ve been following Dembow for a while and just wanted to make something like that. Ricky Luna, ALCOVER, Maxx Gallo, and JayB1 got the beat right and someone said let’s get MARK B on it. I went down to the Dominican Republic to film the video, and the track went crazy.”
JESSI’S TWERK ANTHEMS [‘GUM’ & ‘RSVP’]
After leaving Psy’s P NATION, Jessi made a surprise appearance at Rolling Loud in April with Jay Park to announce that she was going to be signing to the More Vision label. Since then, she’s gone wild with the Twerk anthem videos, releasing ‘GUM’ and jumping on KOALA’s ‘RSVP.’
‘Gum’ hit seven million views about a week after its release and is already at 14 million and flying high a month later. The song has spawned countless dance routines as well as the usual TikTok madness. ‘RSVP’ is a banger that will open up any dancefloor. KOALA, Jay Park, CHIO CHICANO and BM of KARD are all rapping on it, and the remix, but Jessi’s verse is the one that stands head and shoulders above her male friends and labelmates. Look out 2024, Jessi and More Vision are coming for you.
Female bosses of the world unite! RAMENGVRL’s got you - with a bit of help from Indonesian Pop powerhouse Cinta Laura Kiehl, they are two women ready to rise up and stomp a hole in the patriarchy with ‘BOSSY.’
As the perfect empowerment song for 2023, ‘BOSSY’ has Reggaeton elements and drops that make people shake. The video starts anime style and then goes all the way to space and back with perfect choreography and state-of-the-art Y2K graphics. The sky is truly the limit for someone as talented as RAMENGVRL.
EMIWAY BANTAI ‘KING OF INDIAN HIP HOP’
A few years ago, Kendrick Lamar dropped a verse on ‘Control’ that sent shockwaves through the Hip Hop industry as he attempted to revitalize the competitive spirit of the Rap game by mentioning a lot of MCs’ names in the song. In that vein, Emiway Bantai stepped up to EVERYONE on ‘KING OF INDIAN HIP HOP,’ a blistering seven-minute Rap that shows why he wears a crown. It’s not about reality shows or movies for Emiway. It’s not about Bollywood or sponsors. It’s about rapping, rapping, and more rapping.
With 17 million YouTube views and counting, ‘KING OF INDIAN HIP HOP’ hit the ground hard. It features Emiway in a raucous cypher, on his throne, and even puts a lyrical breakdown on screen so people can catch his clever wordplay. If ANYONE in Indian Hip Hop wants to take Emiway’s crown, they better remember the most famous words spoken by Omar Little in The Wire, “If you come at the king, you best not miss.”
EZ MIL FEATURING EMINEM ‘REALEST’
Ez Mil’s ceiling feels limitless after signing with Eminem and Dr. Dre. As soon as the announcement was made, Ez said that he’s got a song with Em and they put out ‘Realest,’ which came with a lyric video. While the ‘Realest’ video is cool with the lyrics stitched into some velvet, it’s the impact of those lyrics that gets it to number five.
Eminem blasted The Game, who was having a pity party for himself after not being invited to the Super Bowl to perform with the Dr. Dre All-Star Team. If that wasn’t enough, Eminem took some anger out on Melle Mel in his verse, which was released right around the celebrations of 50 years of Hip Hop. Mel has always been a hard rock, so he decided to go back at Em on a track that was so bad, a few days after releasing it, Mel tried to pull it off the internet and apologize to EVERYONE for getting caught up in this. Ouch. That’s as real as it gets.
NINO & HYPE TRAIN’s CONSISTENCY
When scouring all the corners of the internet for good music, LiFTED’s team kept coming back to one crew, HYPE TRAIN, and the CEO NINO. After a few weeks of messages, we finally got an interview with him and his words are perfect advice for anyone trying to break into the Rap game and cause some buzz in a world full of noise.
NINO said that instead of trying to hit a home run with each song HYPE TRAIN releases, he is more concerned with consistency. From NINO himself, “The goal for me is to not always have big hits but display my creativity and just simply have fun with it.” Hungry MCs take note.
BALMING TIGER ‘SOS’
Balming Tiger fascinates because they walk the tightrope between Hip Hop, Indie Rock, Shoegaze, and K-pop. They defy expectations so well that everything they do sounds new and fresh. ‘SOS’ is not the average Rap song. It has the relaxed delivery of fuzzy lyrics going into walkie-talkies. But Balming Tiger IS Hip Hop because of their IDGAF-attitude. The video for ‘SOS’ sees the crew invade Hong Kong Wang while paying homage to Kar-Wai and all the beautiful blurriness he has brought to Asian cinema over the years.
RAFTAAR & PRABH DEEP ‘TRAP PRAA’
‘Trap Praa’ was more than just an EP for Raftaar and Prabh Deep. After 20 years of experience in the music industry and successful commercial projects, Raftaar showed Prabh what people want, and what to say to them. Besides the amazing video of the two MCs in their prime rapping their asses off in a boat, the experience guided Prabh in more than music. He said, “There was an exchange of information that I needed at this point in my career, which I got from him. That was more valuable than this EP for me.”
It takes a few listens for Afrobeats to set in, but when it does, it takes over your soul, which is why so many artists are putting out records with that vibe. Summertime is the perfect time for Afrobeats, and in Mongolia, summers are extremely beautiful because it’s a break from the morbidly cold winters. GINJIN released a Mongolian Afrobeats jam, ‘baba,’ and it sounds like it could be from the African continent. The video is a feel-good look at a lovely day at a festival where all of GINJIN’s friends show up to party and more with their shawty babas.
SCARFACE TINY DESK CONCERT
While we focus on Asian Hip Hop at LiFTED, we are most importantly fans of the genre. We celebrate the amazingness of all Hip Hop, especially its history. In Hip Hop’s 50th year, OGs showed why the industry is not just dominated by 20-somethings anymore. Brad Jordan AKA Scarface (Geto Boys) has been around since the late 1980s, and he just put out one of the best Tiny Desk Concerts in the history of the amazing series. He told stories. He laughed when he introduced his family and band. He showed his skill on the guitar. And his band put together some of the funkiest, chills-down-the-spine grooves as they reworked some of Scarface’s hits into beautiful jam sessions. More of this is 2024, please.