The Next 5 is here
These artists are all ready to break out this year
As we mentioned last month, we want to bring special attention to five MCs who were bubbling just below the LiFTED 50 this year. These artists were so close it hurt, causing no shortage of arguments among the LiFTED team as we narrowed down the list.
It’s always fun to speculate, so with our partner Jagermeister, we decided to shine a spotlight on them, and give them a little push – in the form of a special creative grant – for them to further their careers. They can use the money however they choose as long as it’s spent on their careers. We’ll keep an eye on them and show you the results in LiFTED. Last month we told you they were chosen from China, Vietnam, South Korea, India, and Japan. Now let’s meet them.
22-year-old Haysen Cheng came up in Hong Kong and started grinding from an early age. First as a prodigy hoops player who went abroad to hone his skills among future NCAA and NBA ballers in Spain. Then as a rapper in Hong Kong, where his 2019 mixtape Durags and Chopsticks caused a stir on Spotify and numerous Hip Hop blogs – with the standout track ‘Machetes’ being added to US Hip Hop magazine’s VIBE Presents: Urban Asia Vol Vol 3 compilation on b2 Music.
In 2022 UK/China hitmaker Harikiri [Higher Brothers, Vanida] signed him to his newly former IRIS Records, and Cheng moved to his base camp in Chengdu. Having recently dropped the second single from his debut EP ‘Legendary’ featuring KnowKnow from the Higher Brothers, Haysen is down with the right squad and in good hands. The single is straight FIRE and it looks like 2022-2023 are going to be Haysen’s years.
Vietnam’s GERDNANG presents a very interesting case. This collection [they call themselves a gang] of MCs have all had some degree of success in their solo careers. In the case of gang leader HIEUTHUHAI a lot of success – as he blew up on the King of Rap show and has had several big hits, some with other GERDNANG members. But when they come together as GERDNANG they are a gang of nerds [get it?] who love making music and sometimes veer to the Pop side of things but are deeply rooted in Hip Hop.
The rest of the gang are all respected MCs – MANBO, HURRYKING, REX, and Negav. They recently dropped a club-banging Trap single ‘Mama Mia’ that’s already surpassed a million views on YouTube, and an earlier single by HIEUTHUHAI and MANBO, ‘CUA’ has surpassed eight million views.
One thing about the gang is that their music videos are always highly entertaining, and they have a funny, carefree approach to shooting them. It’s refreshing to see rappers who don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t trying to front like they’re billionaires. I guess that’s the nerd part. We look forward to seeing whatever they shoot in the studio or wherever, as it’s bound to be great. We predict big things for these boys in 2022 and 2023.
BRYN has risen up quickly in the crowded Korean Hip Hop landscape. The 24-year-old made some big waves on the 2019 version of the hit TV series Show Me the Money and hasn’t looked back since. She’s had some solo gems like ‘Veteran’ [featuring Paloalto, JUSTHIS, Leellamarz & Verbal Jint] and ‘Lilly,’ which showcased her singing and rapping skills. And she turned in some blistering bars on the recent RAMENGVRL remix for ‘Ain’t No MFer’ along with stars pH-1 and Ash-B.
So BRYN has paid some dues and is poised to break out this year. She has a sweet voice and writes very hooky singing parts, to go with her strong bilingual rhyme flow. She’s young and hungry and is probably one hit away from blowing up in the Korean Hip Hop game. Not coming out of a girl group also sets her apart in South Korea. She’s just rhyming and grinding and LiFTED hopes that with Jagermeister, we can help her to make some serious noise this year.
Seedhe Maut have been darlings of the Indian underground for a minute now. The two New Delhi-based rappers, Encore ABJ and Calm have re-defined Indian Hip Hop, which has been dominated by Mumbai Gully Rap ever since DIVINE blew the genre open in 2017. Their brand of clever bilingual Rap is witty, sharp, and often political. They don’t use traditional Hip Hop props and are the anti-bling underground poster boys. Except they are known to every serious rapper in India and have a large, fervent fan base that enables them to sell out shows across the country.
Seedhe Maut’s two studio albums, mostly produced by their long-time producer Sez on the Beat, have come to define the Indie Hip Hop genre. 2018’s Bayaan placed them firmly in the center of the conversation, and the just-released Nayaab is already being hailed as an instant classic. So, is 2022-2023 the year that Seedhe Maut blows it wide open and breaks out into the wider Asian market? We hope we can be a small part of that evolution and can’t wait to see what they do with their Jagermeister creative grant.
20-year-old Kazuo, who was born in Japan but grew up in New York, is a bilingual, biracial beast on the mic. His perspective is unique due to his African American and Japanese heritage, but his bars are legit, and he honed his craft doing open mic nights across New York City, so he's got real street cred.
Of all the artists on the Next 5, Kazuo is the one who brings the East-West heat the most. He’s truly hybrid, and since he moved back to Yokohama last year he’s been tearing up stages and dropping FIRE indie singles with hilarious, take-no-prisoners videos to match.
His first album AKUMA dropped in 2020 and it was angry and irreverent [everything he does is irreverent!] and dealt mostly with his feelings about his biracial identity and not fitting in anywhere. His recent tracks have been more exploratory, with this year’s ‘SEKAI’ basically on a Drum&Bass beat, and a few weeks ago he dropped ‘Oh My Darling’ which sounds like Lo-Fi Rock. Joints like last year’s ‘WATCH OUT!’ are bass-heavy Trap bangers that throb and sizzle and make you hit repeat to catch the funny, clever lyrics. Kazuo is one artist we really cannot wait to see what he does with his Jagermeister creative grant.
Here are LiFTED and Jagermeister’s Next 5. Five artists who are in very different ways rising up in their own Hip Hop scenes across Asia. If we have guessed correctly, they should all be vying for a spot in the LiFTED 50 next year. Stay tuned as we will next drop Q&As with them to find out how they plan to use their creative grants.