LiFTED LiSTS: WORST OF 2021
It’s been an ugly year. Where do we even begin?
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.
Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
We’re going all-in with the bad news first because to be honest, 2021 hasn’t been wonderful. Which year in your lifetime was worse - 2020 or 2021? It’s a hard pick but let’s get the dreadful things out of the way first and then we can focus on the sublime. By the end of the month, we’ll show you all the incredible and stunning music and art from the Asian Hip Hop world that so many talented people have been making that you will be hopeful for what the future has in store in 2022.
THE PANDEMIC THAT JUST WON’T QUIT
2021 was supposed to be the year that things got better. Instead, the rebirth looked a lot more like the zombie apocalypse than a phoenix uprising. As places started reopening in the spring, the delta variant appeared and said, “No, no, no.” Shutdowns were reimposed and #hotvaxsummer turned into #longestlockdownever. Vaccines that were supposed to save the world in one quick shot have been working as promised, but the ruthless proliferation of anti-vax sentiment seems to be getting stronger each day. With riots about mandates, vaccine inequality for less fortunate countries, and the only way to climb out of the pandemic being the whole world to be vaccinated, will 2022 be better than 2020 and 2021? Let’s hope so.
ASIAN HATE CRIMES
The thing about having the most powerful man in the world spewing racist dog whistles, is that however twisted the words are, they have an impact on people directly or indirectly. Ditto for regurgitating conspiracy theories as well as repeating the words ‘China virus’ over and over until people started attacking random Asians in the street. It was ugly. It was brutal. It was frequent.
The STOP ASIAN HATE movement started and many artists including MC Jin with Wyclef, Lyrics Born and Cutso, Bohan Phoenix, and even some Asian grannies with feather dusters said enough was enough. By the end of the year, attacks were much less frequent and hopefully the worst of the worst is over.
RAPPERS DYING EARLY
The murders of two of the biggest Hip Hop figures in the world, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., showed that in Hip Hop, death is always waiting right around the corner. 2021 felt a little different because Old School icons like DMX, Black Rob, Biz Markie, and Shock G weren’t murdered, but all died relatively close to each other. New school rappers like Young Dolph and King Von were murdered in cold blood, and joined recent victims Pop Smoke and XXXTention as rappers that were just getting started in their careers.
VIRGIL ABLOH’S DEATH
The shocking news of Virgil Abloh’s death at the age of 41 from a brutal form of cancer blanketed social media for the last week and sent shockwaves through the Hip Hop, fashion, and design industries. As the creator of athleisure wear and numerous album covers from the best Hip Hop artists in the world, Virgil’s death is hard to quantify since it’s so recent, but his ascendency into the upper echelons of the fashion industry will be the template for many people of color for many years.
10 CONCERT-GOERS CRUSHED TO DEATH AT TRAVIS SCOTT’S ASTROWORLD
Imagine the feeling after two years of being locked inside to being able to attend your favorite rapper’s hometown concert. Now, envision that feeling of excitement and joy turning into terror and panic as 50,000 people push to get a better view of Travis Scott while trampling hundreds and killing 10. Lawsuits for Travis Scott, Drake, and Live Nation are now pending in this atrocious tragedy.
KRIS WU IS CANCELED IN CHINA
Kris Wu was accused of sexually assaulting underage girls in China. Within days, his social media pages were gone, mentions of his name were banned, and brands tripped over each other trying to drop him. It’s a huge fall for a Pop artist with big ties to the Hip Hop community by appearing on Rap of China as well single-handedly blowing up the SUPREME brand there, although it’s arguable if that’s a positive by now.
FN MEKA MEANS THAT RAPPERS MIGHT BECOME OBSOLETE
Rappers are notoriously difficult to deal with. They show up late, drunk, high, and like to destroy hotel rooms and get into trouble. Just like Rock stars. But what if record labels could get all the good things about rappers - fans, songs, beats, fly looks - without all the hassle? FN Meka is the future. He’s an AI with more than nine million TikTok fans and has a Lambo-copter. He doesn’t write his own words yet, but give him a few more years and his raps will sound even better than 6ix9ine.
PHOTOGRAPHER CHI MODU PASSES AWAY
Being able to get the right shot is important in photography. But in Hip Hop, what's even more important is to be able to get the artists to work with the photographer so they get the right shot. This is not easy [SEE NUMBER SEVEN ABOVE], but Chi Modu made it easy because he was part of the Hip Hop community. His passing leaves a huge hole.
BARS FAILS BEFORE IT STARTS
There is no doubt that Facebook wants to own all the real estate on everyone’s home screen, but it was quite easy to see that Bars was going nowhere from the get-go. Young people love TikTok and no matter what Facebook rolls out, that is not going to change.
AFGHAN DANCERS FEAR FOR THE LIVES
As the US clumsily left Afghanistan in August, Hip Hop became a matter of life and death. Breakdancers who had done shows for years were trying to get out of the country because the last time the Taliban was in power, anything that hinted at Western culture was forcefully eliminated. Let’s hope these kids are still poppin’ and lockin’ somewhere safe.