Asian and Pacific Islander presence in hip-hop has grown exponentially over the past few years. With the music genre only increasing in popularity year after year and being the most-downloaded genre in the United States in 2021, it’s no surprise that API musicians have become major players in the genre.
This past year alone, there are countless new projects and songs from API artists that hip-hop and R&B fans can enjoy. Here are some of the top Asian hip-hop and R&B artists that came out with new work this past year.
Navraj Singh Goraya, popularly known as just Nav, is a Canadian rapper, songwriter, singer and producer. Nav rose to prominence back in 2015 when he produced Drake’s diss record “Back to Back,” and since then, the Indo-Canadian artist has collaborated with more mainstream artists like Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, The Weekend and more. Within the past couple of years, Nav has cultivated a loyal fan base and his most recent album, “Demons Protected by Angels,” was ranked No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums when it debuted on Sept. 9 of this year.
2. $tupid Young
Born Alex Pham, $tupid Young is a Cambodian American rapper and actor hailing from the mile-long corridor of Cambodia Town in Long Beach. $tupid Young first gained popularity with his single “Mando,” featuring Mozzy, and has been featured in viral documentaries from Vice (“The Rise of Asian Rap Culture with Rich Brian, 88rising, and $tupid Young”) and No Jumper (“Inside the Asian Crip Gangs of Long Beach”). With music that describes his rough upbringing and being a part of street gangs, the gangster rapper highlights street culture through vivid, sharp lyrics that will transport listeners to the east side of Long Beach. Pham also created the clothing line and record label Affilcials, and received an RIAA gold certification for “Mando.” His newest project, “Free Tiger,” released on Aug. 15 and continues to establish him as one of the many great Asian gangster rappers popular today.
Jonathan Edgar Park, known by his stage name Dumbfoundead, was born in Argentina, immigrated to the United States and settled with his family in Los Angeles’ Koreatown at the age of 3. Known for his witty and socially conscious lyrics, Park began his career in the 2000s as a battle rapper in the Los Angeles scene and has since dropped four albums and four extended plays. Park has launched his own production company this past year, “Big Dummie,” that focuses solely on Asian American artists, and also hosts the “Fun With Dumb” podcast. He is currently working with Peacock to create a “Big Dummie” comedy show that follows his life story.
4. Manila Grey
Canadian R&B/hip-hop duo Manila Grey hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. Composed of Filipino-Canadian artists Ghostride Neeko and Blame Soliven, Manila Grey was formed in 2016 and released their first debut project, the EP “No Saints Under Palm Shade,” in 2017. Since their debut, the pair have garnered more than 54 million views on their music videos and received a 2021 Juno Award nomination for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Their most recent extended play, “Spirits,” delivers chill tracks like“1 OF 1,” “New Style Warm Up” and “Tequila Taught Her” that you could listen to while cruising around in your car at night.
Before releasing hit songs like “Grapevine,” “Deja Vu” and “Undercover,” the Korean American rapper attended the University of California, San Diego and photographed hip-hop shows in his free time. He also gained prominence as a contestant on the South Korean survival reality shows “Show Me The Money” five and six. He signed with Tiger JK’s Feel Ghood Music in 2016 and in January of 2019 became the first Korean artist to perform at an NBA halftime show, at a Los Angeles Clippers game. Junoflo cites 50 Cent and Eminem as influences on his music, and it shows in his delivery, cadence and flow, especially in songs like “No Limit,” “Sweatpants” and “Acid Freestyle.” As his last album, “Smiles and Tribulations,” was a collaborative effort with artist G2, Junoflo has yet to drop a solo project in two years. However, he has been releasing single after single, including the brand new track “Onyx,” so a new album could be well on its way.