The LiFTED 50 2023 is here
The second time LiFTED ranked Asia’s top 50 MCs was even harder
As the world finally kicks COVID-19’s ass goodbye, it’s incredible that it’s been 12 months since we launched the LiFTED 50 last year. What’s also incredible is the double-digit growth of Asian Hip Hop, and we’re here to celebrate that with a brand-new list of Asia’s top 50 rappers.
This year was harder to do because Hip Hop has really spread its funky tentacles into places we weren’t even looking at last year. Rappers in Asia are spitting bars in over 50 languages and dialects easily. That said, there are the OGs who must be recognized for their contributions to the game, and the established stars who are pushing boundaries and delving into much bigger international waters.
Last year without a doubt the leader in this regard was South Korea’s Jay Park. While Jay still has GOAT status and is at the top of the game, there’s another MC who had a massive album and is currently selling out cricket stadiums across India. Yes, we’re talking about this year’s NUMBER ONE, India’s DIVINE. His album GUNEHGAR dropped at the end of 2022 and immediately we felt that this was possibly Asia’s biggest street-style Rap record ever - and it’s almost all in slangy, hood-inflected Hindi. Now, consider that it was released by Nas’ Mass Appeal India label and features a who’s who of US producers including Hit-Boy, Harry Fraud, and Statik Selektah – as well as regular collaborators from DIVINE’s crew like Karan Kanchan and Stunnah Beatz. Oh, GUNEHGAR has features from The Lox’s Jadakiss, Russ, and Armani White, among others. The numbers are stoopid, forget about it. A couple mil on IG and almost 20 million monthly streams on Spotify – DIVINE is eating and he’s on top of the LiFTED 50 for 2023.
That moves Jay Park into the NUMBER TWO spot this year, but it’s not like he had a bad year. Even though there was chatter at the beginning of the year that he was retiring, his actions show that he’s making big moves by featuring on tracks, doing amazing live performances at Rolling Loud, dropping cyphers, and even doing a Tiny Desk [Home] concert to rave reviews. Thailand’s YOUNGOHM moves up to NUMBER THREE in 2023 because every single thing he touches blows up, and he rules the Thai market, one of the hottest in Asian Hip Hop. His album THATTHONG SOUND has soulful entries like ‘I Just Want to Be Free’ as well as club bangers like ‘THATTHONG SOUND,’ which was playing in every bar, shop, or restaurant during the week of Rolling Loud Thailand.
pH-1 is miraculously a new entry at NUMBER FOUR, but he’s hot on Jay Park’s heels in the South Korean game and did a major sold-out tour in the US last year. Another Indian MC we have covered, MC STΔN blew up so big this year after winning the Big Boss reality show that he might be bigger than DIVINE – at least on Instagram, where he has over 11 million followers. He’s NUMBER FIVE this year. VannDa held steady at NUMBER SIX, with another stellar year of releases and relentless touring and brand deals, while RAMENGVRL is at the NUMBER SEVEN slot after continuously pushing the envelope with her music and her look.
Rich Brian, who never has a bad year, pops in at NUMBER EIGHT this year, while the original gangstas of Thai Hip Hop, Thaitanium a new entry at NUMBER NINE with their massive comeback into the spotlight over the last year. Proving that being deep in the game means calling shots, these guys are involved in every aspect of the Thai rap game – from Def Jam Thailand to Rolling Loud, where they tore the whole place up with their live set.
At NUMBER 10, who had a bigger year than Jackson Wang? Yeah, you can say it wasn’t purist Hip Hop, but that would be missing the bigger idea. We know Jackson can rhyme, and we also know that when he rhymes, he spreads the culture like few others can. Give this man his props.
Oh yeah, and a couple of newcomers worth talking about are last year’s NEXT 5 artists, who keep building and growing and got on this year’s list. Notably SEEDHE MAUT, straight outta New Delhi, who is on the verge of major stardom, and so impressed our Jägermeister partners that they signed them to rep the brand. We love it when a plan works out. Also, KAZUO signed a major label deal with Warner Japan and Haysen Cheng signed on with superproducer Harikiri’s Iris label in Chengdu. Results! South Korea’s Bryn keeps dropping hot singles and expanding her sonic styles. She’s a real one, and we expect big things for her this year.
All in all, it was a pretty great year for Asian Hip Hop, and we thank anybody who checks in with us for the opportunity to spread the news to you all.
Just over a decade ago, Vivian Fernandes’ interest in Hip Hop was sparked by his friend’s 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin’ T-shirt. Now, DIVINE is in a league of his own in Indian and Asian Hip Hop, so LiFTED has put him in the pinnacle for 2023’s LiFTED 50. His number one slot was earned by releasing GUNEHGAR, DIVINE’s magnum opus that features 12 tracks with a who’s who of Hip Hop including Hit-Boy, Russ, Jadakiss, Armani White, Harry Fraud, Statik Selektah, and more.
DIVINE has so many firsts that it's hard to keep track of, but in 2022, he was the first Indian Hip Hop artist to attend the Grammys. He’s also put out a record on Nas’ Mass Appeal label and now has his own conglomerate, Gully Gang Entertainment, to find the next hot thing on the streets.
In India, there are a lot of sizzling MCs in every city as Hip Hop becomes the biggest music in the world’s most populous country. DIVINE, the man who invented Gully Rap, has had a big hand in popularizing the movement and keeping it on the streets.
In an interview with LiFTED, DIVINE said this about his past year:
“I took my time with the third album, having put out so much music in 2019 and 2020 including my tracks in Gully Boy followed by Kohinoor and Punya Paap, it was incredible. I’d have liked to put out Gunehgar a little earlier but things like sample clearances and so on took time. We toured across India with the album, put on some amazing shows [producing a few ourselves], and did headlining slots at Lollapalooza, Wireless Festival, and Supersonic - really adding to the charm of this past year. It felt like the music industry is back properly after a long time with all the pandemic-induced interruptions.”
Jay Park [Korea]
Micheal Jordan didn’t win the MVP trophy every year he was in the league. LeBron James has been to 10 finals and only came home with the prize four times. Like MJ and LeBron combined, Jay Park has Asian Hip Hop GOAT status and that’s not going to change anytime soon, but sometimes others need some time in the spotlight to shine.
At the beginning of 2022, Jay hinted at retirement, but like another GOAT, Jay-Z, found out, quitting the thing you have been highly successful at for many years ain’t that easy. Jay has been handing out features left and right, rocking cyphers, turning it up at concerts, and doing his own thing like the highly-acclaimed Tiny [Home] Desk concert with a nine-piece band for NPR like he was an aspiring MC clawing his way into the industry instead of trying to get out. There may be a time when Jay Park retires, but it’s not happening soon as the mogul has the world eating out of his hands right now.
The hot-and-sweaty and nearly riotous Thai streets are screaming, and they want YOUNGOHM at the top of this list. In Thailand for the Rolling Loud concert week, the team from LiFTED did informal surveys of random Thai people from Grab drivers to waitresses to club kids to aspiring MCs on street corners. When asked who their favorite Thai rappers were, the overwhelming response was YOUNGOHM. Not only that, but a day didn’t go by where his hyperkinetic single, ‘THATTHONG SOUND’ from the album of the same name, was heard in every bar, restaurant, Tuk-Tuk, or club. Needless to say, YOUNGOHM has the streets of the hottest country for Asian Hip Hop on lock.
YOUNGOHM appeals to Thai people because he climbed his way up from the streets. As the linchpin of the ALREADY DEADD EMPIRE with fire MCs like FIIXED, 1MILL, Gavin D, DIAMOND MQT, and Younggu, YOUNGOHM has shown the pathway to superstardom and is paving it for others to come.
The rapper formerly known as Harry Park started putting out songs in 2016, made it that close to the final three in Show Me the Money 777 in 2018, and then needed a break. In August of 2022, pH-1 dropped back into the scene like a tsunami with ‘MR. BAD’ featuring Woo. Soon, he was putting out his album, But for Now, Leave Me Alone, and selling out his About Damn Time shows all over the globe.
It’s hard to have two Korean stars so close to the top of the LiFTED 50, especially when they are both on H1GHR Music, but the Jay Park formula is working for pH-1. He’s handsome, fashionable, got skills writing love songs, rocking the mic, and dancing, and he’s building a base of fanatics that may soon put him at the number one spot on this chart.
MC STΔN [India]
Before going on Big Boss 16, MC STΔN had 1.6 million followers on Instagram. That’s damn good for anyone, but after the season was completed and he dominated the competition to win, MC STΔN now has 11 million fans and is growing every day.
As a staple in the Indian Hip Hop scene, no one gave him much thought when it was announced that he was a contestant on the show. But, in the final weeks, grandmothers were rooting for the pioneer of Pune Hip Hop, and now everybody knows his name. For all Indian MCs, a rising tide lifts all boats, and Hip Hop is well on its way to rivaling Bollywood songs in India, thanks in part to MC STΔN’s victory.
It would be hard to surpass a 2021/2022 like VannDa had, with the meteoric success of his first few singles, but 2023 has shown that now is indeed his ‘Time to Rise.’ Even as that now-classic single passed 100 million YouTube views [the first-ever for a Khmer artist], VannDa’s second album Skull 2: Season One provided more hits, and became a legitimate Pop album on the Cambodian charts. This brought regional attention and opportunities to perform outside of Cambodia, most notably Thailand where the language barrier is less important.
Now a legitimate Asian Hip Hop star, VannDa has started collaborating with other big names like Thailand’s F. HERO, 1 MILL, and SPRITE on ‘Run the Town’, and with OG Bobby on the slappers ‘BONG’ and ‘Young Man.’ He turned in a hot set at Rolling Loud this past April and is now a name on everyone’s lips in SE Asia.
You wanna talk about juice? VannDa has over 800K Instagram followers and he only has four posts showing. Together with his label Baramey, Vannda has done the heavy lifting of putting Cambodia and Khmer Hip Hop on the musical map. We see no reason why this gifted rapper, producer, and songwriter won’t have a 2023 as big as anyone’s in Asian Hip Hop.
Since we last checked in, RAMENGVRL has been continuing to represent Indonesia in a way that some other, more well-known artists like Rich Brian and Warren Hue just can’t. Why? For one thing, she never left the place. She is still based in Jakarta and is often found in Bali. Even though she rhymes almost exclusively in English, you can tell she’s an Indo girl at heart. There’s no artifice about RAMENGVRL; she is who she is and doesn’t try to front otherwise. She has been dropping fun, witty, slightly controversial songs and videos since she arrived on the scene in 2016 with ‘I’m Da Man.’ She has a knack for catchy hooks and she can spit. In Hip Hop, these are the formulas for success.
So far in 2023, she hasn’t been as prolific with releases, but she still had a great year. She’s collaborated with South Korea’s pH-1 on ‘Ain’t No MF’ [add BRYN and Ash-B for the remix] and Singapore’s Yung Raja on ‘Ming Ling.’ Plus, she signed on with Warner Music’s ASIATIC label and has been recently dropping videos and merch with her own Going Noodles brand. She’s set herself up to be a real boss in this industry, and we do not doubt that she will be.
Rich Brian [Indonesia]
Rich Brian had his B-Rabbit from 8 Mile moment when Jamojaya premiered at Sundance this past January. In the movie, Indonesia’s biggest musical export plays James, an MC who signs a record deal with a company in the US. While art does imitate life, Rich Brian spent a lot of the last year focusing on Hollywood instead of dropping music. The tunes that Rich Brian put out, like ‘Sundance Freestyle,’ were tales of him wanting to act, so we see that his career is about to hit the stratosphere when he becomes a leading man in Hollywood blockbusters.
The smiles were broad on all of the members of Thaitanium’s faces as they were asked if they were happy about Hip Hop becoming so huge in Thailand over the past 23 years right before they went onstage at the biggest Hip Hop concert in Asian history, Rolling Loud. DaBoyWay, Thaitanium’s defacto leader, replied, “Hell yeah we are happy! Hip Hop did this! But also we just got smoked out so…”
That is the realness of Thaitanium on full display as they made a huge comeback in 2022 and 2023 with ‘Por Meung,’ where they showed out on the new MCs, they dissed themselves on ‘F. THAITAY,’ and even remixed their biggest hit into a Twerk anthem on ‘TA LUENG BABY.’ DaBoyWay also released ‘Cake Diet,’ a high-BPM banger that shakes the crowds wherever they go.
Thaitanium has gone through a few line-ups over the years, but the crew that is there now with Way, Day, Khan, Big Calo, DJAYBUDDAH, and close friends like DJ ONO who put in a lot of work for Rolling Loud, is eager to put on the younger generation of MCs who are hungry with Def Jam Thailand while they age gracefully with big smiles on their faces knowing how they set the Thai Hip Hop machine in motion.
Jackson Wang has 33 million Instagram followers, which is nearly triple the amount of the closest MC on this list, STΔN. He’s also arguably had the biggest year of all Asian artists that aren’t from Korea. So why isn’t he on top of the LiFTED 50? While follower count is one metric, there is something about Jackson’s music and live shows that are much more K-pop than they are Hip Hop. While we know Jackson has skills on the mic, his wildly-successful Magic Man album and world tour have made his focus more boy band than B-boy.
Flow G [Philippines]
He has risen the ranks of a very crowded field of talented MCs – male and female – in a country that seems to produce dope rappers like Dunkin’ makes Donuts. Flow G has a smooth, staccato flow that is so fast he almost sounds like a Drum & Bass MC. Never mind that it’s all in Tagalog because his voice is like a percussion instrument and he rides the rhythm seamlessly while dropping pearls. At the beginning of 2023, he released a new single, ‘Rapstar’ to his 1.75 million YouTube followers and it’s a tour de force, even for him. It already has 43 million YouTube views. He switches gears, rhymes half-time, then double-times, then he slows it down to make the point that he’s on a different level and toying with his competitors. His fat diamond rings, designer drip, and dookie chains show you he’s on top and making mad paper, while his flow tells you it’s real, G.
Putting on parties in other countries is the ultimate flex, but what Balming Tiger did this year with Jaded at SXSW for the Tiger Den was incredible. Not only did they get to play an amazing set to an adoring audience, but the Korean anti-K-poppers with K-pop sensibilities threw a 12-hour bash at Cheer Up Charlies with 17 other Asian artists including Lil Cherry and GOLDBUDDA. If that wasn’t enough to move up 27 slots from last year, they also went full Wong Kar-wai for the incredibly cinematic video to their moody single ‘SOS.’
JP The WAVY [Japan]
JP The Wavy continues to be one of Japan’s most compelling artists, with his loose-limbed dance moves and neo-nineties style – plus his often self-designed Hip Hop gear, he’s pretty much the full package. This dude was made for making music videos. On April 1, he released ‘I’m From Japan,’ which features him live, on the road, and hanging out with his crew. One thing about Wavy, he rhymes only in Japanese and he reps the land of the rising sun to the fullest. This may hold him back a little, but as other rappers have proven [Hello, DIVINE!] keeping it real, and local can also be a huge blessing if you have the skills to ride the rhythm like JP The Wavy can.
Sometimes it’s hard to think about JESSI as a veteran of the Korean Hip Hop scene because she seems to reinvent herself over and over again. But make no mistake, she’s deep in the game as the saying goes. American by birth, JESSI moved to South Korea at age 15 and very quickly was recognized for her musical skills. Since she was in Korea, JESSI started out signed to the K-pop label YMC Entertainment with the group Lucky J, but soon branched out into a solo career and multiple television gigs.
JESSI’s had five top 10 singles and has finished runner-up and been a judge on Korean Hip Hop shows like Unpretty Rapstar and High School Rapper. She has topped the charts with ‘Don’t Touch Me’ and recently signed on with Jay Park’s More Vision label – at Rolling Loud Thailand where she brought him out during her set to make the coronation complete. Don’t call it a comeback, but we are betting that 2023 will be big for JESSI.
Emiway Bantai [India]
When you amalgamate Eminem and Lil Wayne’s names to make your own, you better come correct with it. Emiway Bantai has done that and even more in Indian Hip Hop. The lyrically gifted MC has been making music for nearly a decade now, with a cut on the Gully Boy soundtrack and his battle with Raftaar highlights. He’s been independent the whole time, and with his label Bantai Records, he’s putting his weight behind dope up-and-comers like Young Galib. Earlier this month, Emiway dropped ‘King of Indian Hip Hop,’ a seven-minute opus proving why he deserves the crown.
With the Higher Brothers on [permanent?] hiatus, the three siblings have been releasing songs and touring individually. Psy P got added on to Rolling Loud a day before and killed his set. KnowKnow was recently seen on a scooter with bbno$ so there may be a collab coming in the future. MaSiWei has been out repping Chengdu while touring the world and delivering music filled with swag with Chinese characteristics.
A lot of people slept on VINIDA when she was making dope Rap records a few years back because they mistook her for just a sexy girl in videos like ‘Queendom’ and ‘Run This.’ Those paying attention realized she has a deep flow and also has serious R&B vocal chops. Now she is killing it on The Rap of China and displaying new influences with the Afrobeats-inflected ‘Mojiadai.’ VINIDA is now widely seen as overtaking the throne as the queen of Chinese Hip Hop. Vinida also made news recently as her relationship with Higher Brothers producer Harikiri became public, and his work with her is pushing her forward in a big way. These two are the Chinese Hip Hop power couple of the year.
To say that 1MILL is a workaholic would be an understatement. At 21, this Thai MC has already put out four albums, has another on the way, and has been featured on countless songs from artists all over the country. The thing about 1MILL is that he’s really in his bag when he raps about the things MCs love to rap about the most - money, women, drugs, cars, and flexing in general. In every video he’s in, which is a lot since he’s on a new song nearly every week, the ladies are fly, the gear is fresh, and the rhymes are tight.
Awich has a fierce bad-girl energy that lights up any room she’s in. This past year, Awich has been putting out dope tracks, especially ‘GILA GILA’ with JP The Wavy, and has been hitting the stage hard when she performs. At Rolling Loud, her set was early, but she got the crowd rocking right from the very start with her boundless energy and great musical selection.
Twopee Southside [Thailand]
It’s easy to see that Twopee Southside is living his best life right now. While he’s killing his live shows at festivals all over Thailand, his Instagram with two million followers is filled with him smiling at the beach, with his girl, or surprising people when he was the Masked Singer. When it comes to music, the kid from the southside is bringing his own flavor on tracks like ‘CEO’ with F.Hero, Nino, and Fiixed, or on his collab ‘Light’ with MILLI.
Ted Park [US]
American MC Ted Park is an unstoppable force in the US Indie Rap scene. He is nothing less than prolific, releasing new singles monthly [it seems] and touring non-stop, often with partner in crime Parlay Pass. Ted even released a song with LiFTED Lounge last year, the excellent ‘6 Speed’ with Taiwan’s RayRay. Ted Park might be the hardest-working man in Hip Hop.
An incredible MC from Mongolia making big noise is GINJIN. His release on LiFTED Lounge last fall, ‘Yellow Django,’ was a cold-eyed street anthem about Asian hate and one of the best releases in all of Asian Hip Hop in 2022. The music video has already racked up well over a million YouTube views. With his signature growl, GINJIN is at the very top of the Mongolian Rap mountain along with his partner-in-rhyme, MRS M.
Bohan Phoenix [China]
Bohan has his own lane in Asian Hip Hop and that’s exactly where he wants to be. With the release of his debut album, Cities are for Fools, last July, Bohan made the music he wanted to make. It was funky, soulful, and different from anything else. Whether he hosts open mics, performs at the Barclays Center, or chases the Chinese version of the American Dream on his latest single ‘Weight Up,’ Bohan is doing exactly what he wants to do. In a time when numbers and likes and followers are many artists’ goals, Bohan lets his music do the talking.
Joe Flizzow [Malaysia]
There’s a reason why he’s El Presidente. Joe Flizzow has contributed to Asian Hip Hop in so many ways that we’d need another top 50 list for that. This year alone, he’s rocked Rolling Loud, brought 16 Baris back to focus on new talent, and had an incredible bonus episode where he went back to the Too Phat days with guests, and got introspective on ‘SUNYI.’ As president of Def Jam SEA, Flizzow has a big solo concert coming up in July and is on the hunt to find the first global superstar from Southeast Asia.
Epik High [Korea]
Epik High has done a lot of music in the past two decades and over the last year, they did a world tour of North America, Asia, and Europe. However, for them, this would seem like a more chilled-out year since they weren’t out relentlessly pushing their music - even though they did release an EP that featured a guest appearance by the Magic Man himself, Jackson Wang. After doing Epik High is Here parts 1 and 2, the Strawberry EP was a change in gears, as it features some free Jazz, a dope freestyle, and some Boom Bap Hip Hop.
Mrs M [Mongolia]
The queen of Mongolian Hip Hop, MRS M had a slightly quieter year than usual, and she still got a lot done. To be fair, she took some time off to have her first baby – but that didn’t stop her from signing with Warner Music’s new ASIATIC label and dropping a few hot singles. Her ‘Daughter of Khan’ song and video, with its stunning array of Mongolian female icons, was LiFTED’s video of the year. It also marked the second single she did with NYC hitman Harry Fraud. She also dropped a new song with GINJIN, ‘Sununu’ that’s already surpassed the million views mark on YouTube. Not bad for a new mom.
LEX has been going for the ‘GOLD’ ever since LiFTED has existed. He’s compared himself to the almighty on ‘GOD’ and released an album titled King of Everything, so humble is not in his vocabulary. The thing about LEX is that even on a song like ‘GOD,’ which is little more than ad-libs and a few basic raps, LEX has that ‘It’ factor to make it look and sound really dope.
Since E.So released his sonically adventurous and well-received album EARTHBOUND in early 2022, MJ116’s CEO has been focusing on bigger things like acting. He recently had the lead role in Red Line, a Fast and Furious-like movie about drag racing in Taiwan, which received a warm welcome from the public at large. This signals a career pivot for the MC as he moves from the music charts and the stores - with his incredible amount of sponsorships - to the big screen. If his ascension keeps up this pace, within a few years, E.So might not even be remembered for being a rapper.
Yung Raja [Singapore]
Singapore’s Yung Raja showed he’s a force to be reckoned with in Asia, and his single ‘Ming Ling’ with RAMENGVRL was definitely a highlight of the year. Whenever Raja goes for tongue-in-cheek fare like ‘Poori Gang’ or ‘Mami,’ he wins. One of the leading lights on Def Jam SE Asia, we’re all wondering what’s next from Raja.
The OG of OGs in Filipino Hip Hop, Gloc-9 celebrated 25 years in the game last year. For any musician, this is an incredible feat, but for a Hip Hop MC to take an underground sound and make a lifestyle out of it is amazing. And Gloc-9’s not slowing down at all. Instead, he’s helping out MCs like Shanti Dope, Hero, and others while he keeps challenging new MCs to show him their bars. Gloc-9 knows that fresh blood is the future and he wants to show them how to live their lives right.
Warren Hue [Indonesia]
Warren Hue is on the come-up big time. With the clout of 88rising behind him, he released his album Boy of the Year last July and showed off his skill set in the Asian Rap game. With songs like the title track, and ‘GETCHO MANS’ with Rich Brian, Warren showed that he’s got the next generation of Asian Rappers in a chokehold.
Low G [Vietnam]
Since we started LiFTED a million words ago, Low G has been in our sights because of his original flavor. Every one of his videos and songs has something totally new and cool in it. Take the lyric video for ‘Không Thèm’ for example. Instead of doing what everyone else does, Low G and his team go those extra 10 steps and make this video creative as hell and fun to watch. LiFTED is not the only one watching though, as Low G got the call from COLORS to do ‘Thiên Thần Ác Quỷ on that platform and now the song is quickly approaching half a million views.
Lil Cherry [Korea]
Taking over LiFTED’s cover in May, Lil Cherry explained why she does what she does. She’s had a great year [along with her talented producer-brother GOLDBUUDA] and is lining up to be one of the next big things in a very crowded K-Hop field. With releases like ‘Mukkbang!’, ‘Pye Life,’ and ‘Catwalk,’ plus a crazy Miami Bass-influenced joint with Honey J called ‘Honey Drop’ it’s easy to see why Cherry is seriously on the come up.
JB [Hong Kong]
JB was the big winner in Hong Kong as he collected five awards at the Whats Good Music Awards 2022, which included Artist of the Year. He also showed up at the show and dropped a new Afrobeats single with The Afroseas ‘To the Boat.’ As the head of GREYTONE, JB is as influential as they come in Hong Kong Hip Hop.
Miyachi is one of the most intriguing rappers in Japan right now. First things first, he’s a DOPE MC with a serious bilingual flow. New York-raised and battle-tested, he rhymes flawlessly in Japanese and English. Ever since he started inserting Japanese into his rhymes he’s been on a collision course with destiny in Japan. This past year he signed with Warner Japan and continues to be clever, humorous, and dope AF with everything he drops.
Prabh Deep [India]
As a deep thinker, Prabh Deep always takes a few seconds to gather his thoughts before answering questions. When interviewed about the deluxe version of his game-changing album Brahm, Prabh said Hip Hop was already taking over India as the biggest music and he’s happy that everyone who has been putting in work for years is riding that wave. Prabh also put out the PRAA EP with Raftaar, and you could tell these two MCs lit fires underneath each other.
All rappers are legends in their own minds, but when it comes to the gruff-voiced Big Boss himself, F.Hero, the OG Thai MC wears his legend status proudly. Over the years, F.Hero has learned that part of being in Hip Hop is passing on the knowledge to the next generation so they can do better. F.Hero has done that by featuring on tracks with YOUNGOHM, VannDa, 1MILL, Tiger JK, Nino, Twopee Southside, ShiGGa Shay, JP The Wavy, and more. As a matter of fact, if you took all of F.Hero’s features and had a concert, that would sell out in about 10 minutes flat.
Seedhe Maut [India]
Seedhe Maut was part of the NEXT 5 campaign last year and did so well with Jägermeister that now they are officially sponsored by the brand. This means that Calm and Encore ABJ are going all the way up. With new releases all the time and powerful lyrics that inspire and engage, the jewel in Azadi Records stable is destined for big things.
When NFTs were hot, ShiGGa Shay was there to cash in. When the metaverse was all people could talk about, the Singaporean MC turned out the pixel party. Basically, ShiGGa has his fingers on the pulse of what's going on and gets involved. This involves music as well, as ShiGGa collabs with the best like JP The Wavy, F.Hero, Cykko, and ØZI. The cherry on top of his last 12 months was showing his emotional side on ‘RAINY DAYS 下雨天’ for the German music performance platform COLORS.
Novel Fergus [Hong Kong]
Novel Fergus may not be a household name outside of Hong Kong – or even inside Hong Kong - yet. But the Hip Hop community in the small, fiercely Cantonese market knows what’s up, and that’s all that matters. At last year’s What’s Good Awards - the first-ever Hong Kong Hip Hop award show - Fergus took home the Best Rapper award. JB may still be the king, but Fergus has carved out his own space. His dark, ominous street stories depict a side of Hong Kong life that everyone knows about – and his deep voice and steady flow tell them convincingly. Tracks like ‘長命斜’ featuring PetPetShawn and Polar G get as close to US Hip Hop’s urban storytelling as you can. Fergus is a new entry and he’s rising fast.
Hustlang Robber [Vietnam]
We mentioned Ted Park as the hardest-working man in Asian Hip Hop earlier, but that was more because he’s on his tour grind. Hustlang Robber's work ethic is through the roof as he’s putting out songs and videos every other week. The best thing about Hustlang Robber’s work is that it’s all top quality. A lot of rappers like NBA Youngboy, who has put out 26 mixtapes over the last few years, are not concerned about quality. But Hustlang Robber just keeps going and going and we keep listening and watching.
Yayoi Daimon [Japan]
Whenever Yayoi Daimon does a show, the place proudly turns ratchet just like that. Her attitude fatty, her dance moves tight, and her performance is wherever she wants to go. Sometimes that’s jumping onto the bar, other times that swinging from the speakers. Yayoi is not the stereotypical Japanese MC. Instead, she takes a bit of Hip Hop attitude, a slice of Dancehall vibes, and even some Afrobeats for that extra seasoning to make whatever she feels like since she is a proudly independent artist.
The women in XG had the same problem that Jackson Wang has in that they are really part of a Japanese K-pop band that has Hip Hop sensibilities. But what COCONA, MAYA, HARVEY, and JURIN did when they released a few cypher videos was totally change the game. Instead of just being cute or having great dance moves, these girls have skills on the M.I.C. LiFTED had it covered when they rapped over ‘Two Tens’ as well as J.I.D and ROSALIA, and those cyphers kick major ass. Because the cyphers are hot on the streets, they keep releasing more of them, which is great for the future of K-pop, K-hop, J-hop, and music in general.
OG Bobby [Thailand]
In a very small amount of time, OG Bobby has gone from spitting rhymes in the cafeterias when people were beatboxing, to freestyling over ‘Tokyo Drift’, to becoming someone to look for at Rolling Loud. Two years ago, Hype Train’s Nino saw his video and put him on. Recently, he’s created one of the best club bangers in recent memory, ‘BONG’ with VannDa, so we know OG Bobby is going to be doing nothing but climbing this chart in the years to come.
We can’t lie, we love BRYN. Ever since we heard her rhyme on RAMENGVRL’s remix of ‘Aint No MF,’ we knew she was a real one. She’s a new entry this year, after being one of the NEXT 5 last year with our partner Jägermeister. She is a bright spot in the Seoul Rap world right now, and everything she drops sounds great like the funky, Dance-infused ‘Fill Me Up.’ She looks like a teenager, but at 25 she’s already proven she can rap, sing, and make catchy tracks. Now there is nowhere to go but up for BRYN.
Ruthko is as real as real gets. The KlapYaHandz MC recently released ‘Stay the Same,’ which was a shot across the bow to new MCs who are getting a taste of fame, riches, and women. He speaks his truth when he says that they really need to relax and stay humble. The video, shot by Kim CHAPIRON and PSE Students, is the perfect example of the G sh*t that Ruthko does on the daily.
Alex Bruce [Philippines]
At the age of 17, Alex Bruce has been putting in work for years like the veteran MC that she is. She’s got a refreshingly youthful take on modern Rap, and is out to show people what she can do. In 2022, she got a chance to do what many Filipina artists only dream of - perform on the 107.5 WISH Bus. On it. She spit her song ‘Dime Girls,’ and the performance with empowering lyrics now has over a million views on it.
Kazuo is another graduate of the NEXT 5 from last year, and he’s the perfect MC for modern times. He not only spits fire in Japanese and English, but he can make beats and edit videos on his phone quickly and put them up when he feels like it because it's 2023. This year he signed with Warner Music Japan, so big things are on the burner for Kazuo.
We’ve been fans of FRαNKIE阿法 ever since he rocked the LiFTED grand opening party in Taipei. We rooted for him on season two of MTV’s The Rappers, and even though he didn’t win, he’s poised to make a lot of noise in Taiwan and all the Asian markets because he’s attractive, personable, has a dope voice, shows his sense of humor by writing songs about love motels, and is a gifted MC. Watch out for this kid as his time is coming.
Haysen Cheng [China]
Some people will look at the 50th position and think it’s last. Not Haysen Cheng. Another of last year's NEXT 5 artists, we’ve had our eye on Haysen since he was a self-starter in Hong Kong. In the past year, he’s re-settled in Chengdu, signed with Harikiri’s new IRIS label, and released a string of dope singles in China. Recently, his song ‘No Way Out’ has caught on in China’s Hip Hop capital, and it features Haysen singing as well as rhyming. One thing we know about this talented artist is that he’s in it to win it and won’t give up until he's done big things.