In the mid-1960s, due to a mass flooding of British musicians into the American music industry, a term was coined: the British Invasion. While the term “invasion” isn’t exactly the most welcoming of phraseology it described the time perfectly. So it warms my half-Chinese heart when I see a modern day Asian Invasion in Hip-Hop.
From the beginnings of the culture of Hip-Hop, the Asian community weren’t an active members. The first Asian American rapper signed to a major record company deal was in the early 2000s. His name was MC Jin, a Cantonese speaking battle rapper who rapped in both English and his native Cantonese. MC Jin was a trailblazer and his work with DMX, Kanye West and DJ Kool Herc. His work for Asian rappers helped pave the way for more modern artists.
The new scene for Asian rappers is following the culture. You have the flashy rap of Rich Brian and the Higher Brothers but coupled with the sad-boy trends in Joji’s Music. This new wave of Asian artists have captivated U.S. audiences with Rich Brian selling out his entire tour and the artists mentioned have finishing their group Asia tour.
This can be seen in the multitude of the mentioned artists songs featured on iTunes Top 100s. These guys are the new rock stars, they aren’t gangsters nor are they acting like them. Instead we see displays of venerability like in Rich Brian’s song “Cold,” where he said “Like to smoke cigs every time I feel the outside, Like to play chicks but get mad when they get new guys, You don’t get me but I don’t blame you, I don’t get myself.”
This attitude of abandoning the persona that a rapper gets really polarizes these artists because they can be easily called out for seeming weak or worse broke. But also by abandoning the stereotype they are able to attract a more mainstream audience which has garnered them a lot of hype and reputation. By not being societies “rappers” these artists can’t do anything but prosper.
In the end, as an Asian Australian I’m proud when I see people of a formerly excluded group flourish in a system that wasn’t built by them. I will never get enough of Asian rappers and their smooth flows and broken English. God Bless the Rap Game.