LiFTED LiSTS: EMERGING ARTISTS 2021
The best up & coming Hip Hop talent in Asia
The last 12 months have been a wild ride. While people were locked down, let outside, and locked down again, these artists took it upon themselves to keep pushing no matter what. And guess what? Their hard work and determination paid off and they had phenomenal years.
Out of the 12 MCs [Top 10 plus two to watch], the thing they all have in common is consistency. These artists put out creative songs with videos to match consistently. They stayed in the studio coming up with tracks and ideas, and then followed through by bringing their tracks out and pushing them hard, whether it’s on social media or at live shows. Basically, they put the work in to see their vision through. This, in turn, connects them to their fans in many ways.
Alex Bruce is the future Asian Hip Hop needs. Legend has it that at the age of four, when most kids are learning to ride bikes or write their ABCs, Alex started getting on stage in front of crowds and rocking the mic.
Ten years later, as a veteran in the Hip Hop game at the age of 14 [!!!], she has just released a self-titled EP, and it’s FIRE. Alex is heading into 2022 with a full head of steam, so we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
Trade L has been in the Korean Rap game for a minute, but 2021 was an exceptional year for the 17-year-old. He won High School Rapper 4, put out Time Table-The Trip, a six-track EP, and had a standout verse on the Korean remix of the FORCEPARKBOIS’ ‘Lotus.’ With Jay Park’s H1GHR Music machine behind him, the sky's the only limit for Trade L.
Everyone knows controversy sells. Filipino-American rapper Ezekiel Miller aka Ez Mil put out ‘Panalo’ in 2020 as an ode to Pinoy pride with a smooth sample of ‘Cariñosa,’ an old Carinosa folk song. It wasn’t until January of 2021 that he went on the Wish Bus USA that the song really blew up, garnering 67 million views.
For many people, Ez Mil was expressing his home-country pride in three languages with lyrics as sharp as a kampilan. But others had a problem with his loose interpretation of history. The controversy is about an Ez Mil lyric that has Filipino hero Lapu-Lapu getting beheaded. This didn’t happen, and the mayor of Lapu-Lapu City even said, “This is a big insult to us Oponganons. He mocked the person that we consider a hero. He doesn’t recognize Lapu-Lapu as a hero. He should have not created a song that will irk the people.”
Like any emerging 22-year-old Hip Hop star, Ez Mil brushed the dirt off his shoulders by apologizing and then saying he wasn’t changing the lyrics because it didn’t fit the rhyme scheme. Problem solved!
Later in 2021, Ez Mil put out another mind-blowing video, ‘Beatbox Freestyle,’ where he not only samples his own beatbox sounds for the track, but he also raps over it to the awe of many involved in this challenge. This shows his creativity and ingenuity, as well as his production, lyrical, and video skills all at once. Keep an eye on this kid because he’s going places.
When we do FREESTYLE SUNDAYS, it usually takes at least a month to coordinate with getting the beat from the producer to the rapper, laying down the track, getting it back, and getting it up. Kazou, the superhuman Japanese-American MC and producer, got the beat, remixed it, and then shot a video for it and edited it all in a weekend or so. And it's fresh AF.
Being an MC nowadays is not just moving the crowd while being a microphone controller. It’s being able to do all of the above in a flash and make it amazing consistently. Kazuo is all that and then some.
Altaf Shaikh aka MC STΔN straight up busted loose in 2021. On January 1, he released his album, TADIPAAR, which is a tale of how he moved from his hometown of Pune to Mumbai. The crazy thing is that his album is less than eight minutes long. In that time, there are nine songs with countless different flows proving how much of a genius MC STΔN really is. And that doesn’t even describe how sensational the video is. Just watch it here to get a small dose of MC STΔN.
MCs these days don’t want to create or even think about ‘the classic album.’ They make what they want, when they want, how they want, and put it out for their fans to consume. MC STΔN shows that any idea can work if you just believe in it.
When you come out of Gloc-9’s camp in the Philippines, you’ve got to be good. 20-year-old Hero is all that and then some. On a blazing hot beat by Hong Kong’s SILVERSTRIKE, Hero turned his Freestyle Sunday session into a madhouse. The song is so good and keeps getting more and more views. We expect a lot more out of Hero in 2022, and we’re sure it’s going to be just as dope.
LOW G & TEDDIE J
Many teenagers hate high school, but in ‘Ôi Bạn Ơi,’ Low G and Teddie J make it look enjoyable. With a beat that is a perfect example of less is more, Low G’s low-key flow rides it perfectly. Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, Teddie J jumps on the jam and rips it up. The beat does a couple of switches and when it comes full circle, the whole class has their elbows up. Good luck to that teacher trying to calm the classroom down after the two MCs from the Rap Nhà Làm crew are finished.
Haysen Cheng was everywhere all the time in 2021. If he wasn’t collab-ing with Amsterdam-based producer Gianni Marino, he was dropping gems for Warner Music China’s new Juuice Drops project. And how Haysen has taken the great leap forward as he recently moved from his home in Hong Kong to Chengdu, China to really make a run at this Hip Hop thing with the Don Harikiri. We’re excited at the prospect of even more new music from the MC who has one of the illest voices in Asian Hip Hop.
Taiwan was spared a lot of damage from COVID-19 in 2020. That changed in May of 2021 as cases skyrocketed and lockdowns were put in place just when MTV’s THE RAPPERS started. As Taiwan’s first Hip Hop reality show, there were 66 MCs vying for the crown and cash prize. One MC, who used to sell donuts at a night market, was crowned the champion when the competition finished - Young Lee. With the grand prize as well as a standout video for Red Bull Taiwan’s ‘I Got Bars,’ Young Lee is definitely one to watch.
Smashing through the glass ceiling of the male-dominated Hip Hop industry with ‘Pretty Girl Bop’ in 2020, Malaysia’s SYA showed from the get-go that she’s not here to play. “It’s a song that breaks down the stereotype that people have around the term ‘pretty girls,’” SYA said to the South China Morning Post. That same year, she became the first female MC signed to Def Jam South East Asia. As a Muslim female with an affinity for showing skin, SYA is breaking down stereotypes every time she releases a video.
This year, SYA’s rising star shone brightly when she hopped on the SEA remix for Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Drivers License’ with Fateeha, DonWilson, SCYE, Pradaa, and Ben Utomoa. She also ended the year on a high note with ‘MADAME,’ an ode to doing things the way she wants. We can’t wait to see what SYA has in store for us in 2022.