LiFTED LISTS: Best Tracks of 2021
It was a very good year for Asian Hip Hop
LiFTED has only been in existence for nine short months, and we are only getting started. Our focus from Day 1 has been to elevate Asian Hip Hop and we’re well on our way to doing that by publishing 500-plus articles filled with more than 300,000 words about Hip Hop in 20 different Asian countries and around the world in 2021. This December, we’re doing a wrap-up of the year with LiFTED LiSTS - our picks of the good, the exceptional, and even the downright awful of 2021. Here is Asia’s Hip Hop culture through LiFTED’s lens.
In almost every respect 2021 was a tough year around the world due to the pandemic. But that didn’t stop the sonic and cultural juggernaut that is Asian Hip Hop from growing, evolving, and expanding in Every. Single. Country. Indeed, when it comes to the regional Hip Hop scene there were plenty of silver linings to pick from, starting with our own LiFTED launch in March. It’s been an honor and privilege to be a part of this incredibly vibrant scene, from India to Indonesia, and every place in-between. Over the past ten months, we have had the pleasure of covering literally hundreds of new Asian artists, releases, labels, and performances. Here are our picks of the best of the best of 2021.
‘Time To Rise’ VannDa
What else can we say about Cambodia’s Hip Hop hero? He simply created the most sublime track, ‘Time to Rise’ and a gang of other equally compelling singles, took over his own market, and now is spreading throughout the region and beyond. Backed by a rich Khmer legacy, this kid has developed his own sound, and he’s poised to take it global.
‘I’m Ugly’ RAMENGVRL
Another artist who had a stellar 2021 is Indonesia’s RAMENGVRL. Her previous releases like ‘I’m Da Man’ and ‘Cashmere’ gave us a peek at what this cheeky and confident upstart is about; basically telling male-dominated polite society to F off, and doing it with style through tight, catchy rhymes over hard Trap beats. Yup, and it’s a winning formula. She dropped a bunch of hot singles and signed with Warner Music’s new pan-Asian Hip Hop label, Asiatic. She’s lit, and 2022 looks like it’s gonna be a bonfire.
‘M For Tha Money’ [Prod. Harry Fraud] Mrs M
Mongolia’s Hip Hop queen had an interesting 2021. After racking up crazy views for her singles ‘Boroo’ and ‘ATM’ with her partner in crime GINJIN, she pivoted away from rhyming in Mongolian and announced she was working with New York producer Harry Fraud. In fact, he found room between producing Curren$y, French Montana, and Benny the Butcher to fly her to NYC where they recorded ‘M For Tha Money’ at his Brooklyn studio. This alone sets her apart from many of her Asian contemporaries, and her English bars on this are pure FIRE - well in Mrs M’s case it’s more like smoldering, sleek, and sexy fire.
'Mami' Yung Raja
Singapore’s Yung Raja had a 2021 that was plain nuts. He signed with Def Jam SE Asia, dropped a couple of stoopid hot joints like ‘Mami,’ and even graced our June cover with his sexy self - silver pants and all. This kid is dropping new tracks like they’re hot – and they are – with ‘Spice Boy,’ ‘MIKE,’ and ‘And Then’ with Fariz Jabba all coming out recently. Somebody needs to tell Raja to take a break for the holidays, we can’t write that fast!
‘WAQAF’ Prabh Deep
Prabh Deep’s 2021 album Tabia marked a real milestone in the Indian Hip Hop game. With the entire scene overshadowed by DIVINE’s Bollywood-documented story, the David to that Goliath was Prabh Deep and his label, Azadi Records. They just kept grinding, and that’s what real rappers and hustlers do – they grind. Prabh Deep dropped Tabia and it was, to put it mildly, critically acclaimed. It was even reviewed in Pitchfork. ‘WAQAF’ is a story about fame and going from the darkness to the light, like a Guru. The music video is one of the most creative of the year, Asia or otherwise.
‘Gila Gila’ Awich featuring JP the Wavy and YZERR [Prod. Chaki Zulu]
Awich hails from Okinawa and did years in the US, where she got exposed to Hip Hop culture at its source. While not old enough to be an OG in the Japanese scene, it’s safe to say she’s deep in the game. On ‘Gila Gila’ she invites JP The Wavy and YZERR along for a hustler’s boasting track that makes no mistake about who the gang’s queen is. Her cadence is hypnotic on the hooks, and JP’s verse is FIRE.
‘得個等 [Waiting]’ JB
Hong Kong rapper JB AKA Jiggie Boy had a 2021 that saw him release a successful string of his own tracks and features, with highlights being the hilarious ‘火機 [Lighter]’ and then his ode to Hong Kong’s stringent COVID lockdown measures, ‘得個等 [Waiting]’ - a track that feels like the song everyone was thinking about, but JB actually made. And it perfectly captures the helplessness that most Asian artists have been feeling over the past two years without touring or much live performing. His rap-flow in slangy Cantonese has really struck a chord with the city’s energized local Hip Hop fanbase, and he’s leading the way now.
‘Together’ Suboi X Gavin.D
Suboi is easily Vietnam’s most recognizable rapper and was considered an OG while still in her twenties. Her first album in seven years, No Nê, dropped in July and immediately cemented her position as the queen of VN Hip Hop. Her rabid fanbase – millions of followers across FB and IG – couldn’t get enough of her new tracks, but it was the futuristic ‘Together’ with Thai star Gavin.D that was the standout single and had a visually stunning video as it was the official theme song for AWC gaming world cup.
‘Eazy Life’ VaVa
VaVa has risen up to become one of China’s most recognizable Hip Hop artists in recent years. The Chengdu native has released a string of successful singles and signed with Warner Music in the wake of her monster 2017 hit ‘My New Swag’ that has 30 million YouTube views, and those are dwarfed by the Chinese platforms. On ‘Eazy Life’ she exudes hometown pride for Sichuan, and with a tight rhyme lets us know why you can’t beat the laid-back lifestyle of her home. With a catchy hook, and signature Chinese instruments in the track, VaVa comes correct once again with a big hit.
‘G Wolf’ Flow G
Flow G has risen so fast in the Philippines Hip Hop game that he made the music video for ‘G Wolf’ about him coming out of a house with the roof literally on fire. Simply put, he’s been on fire for all of 2021. His rhyming skills are not to be F’ed with, and his flow is probably the fastest, most relentless we’ve heard all year, and that’s saying something. On ‘G Wolf’ he sets the record straight and advises any would-be competitors or diss artists to be careful - he’s not afraid to come fast and furious with the heat.