After decades of being relegated to the margins of hip hop, Asian American rappers are finally on the come up. We talked to some of the hottest Asian American rappers in the game about their career, and what’s helped them stand out from others.
Press play on the music below and get to know your new favorite rappers.
Rekstizzy’s been in the rap game for a minute. He co-starred in the 2016 documentary “Bad Rap,” alongside Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina and Lyricks, and now he’s back in the spotlight after dropping his debut Korean album “Killer Smile“ on June 24.
The music video for his lead single “Fake Laugh” is like an “Eric Andre Show” fever dream, which makes sense considering how hilarious and unique he is. “I just do whatever my little heart desires. If I feel like rapping about hentai, I’m gonna rap about hentai. I don’t really care too much about branding and consistency. I think this gives me more range than most rappers, especially from Asian American rappers,” Rekstizzy told us.
“Being that I was debuting in Korea [with my new album], I felt obligated to [rap in Korean], and it was humbling,” the Queens native said. “Made me uncertain a lot of times, and it was actually a lot of fun. It made rapping feel new again.” His close friend Dumbfoundead (a legend in the battle rap community) even contributed his first-ever Korean verse for the album on “Mal Doh An Dweh.”
Similar to Rekstizzy, Ted Park is a rapper with a lot of range. “I think what makes me stand out is the way I can transition through different kinds of genres and moods seamlessly and still keep my own flare and character,” Park told us.
“I’m open-minded to different kinds of sounds and energies, and I love the challenge of trying to bring my own sauce to something new. Just telling my story and what I’ve been through in my own voice,” Park said. “A Korean American from Madison, Wisconsin — dropping out of school, taking a bus to New York, struggling to find a voice. Now I feel like I’m a voice for my people and for my city too.”
San Diego native Dane Amar dropped his new album “East Daygo Popstar” on June 25. The album is the perfect combination of hip hop, R&B and pop. “It was for real about how I can make music that sounded like how I grew up,” Amar told us. “I wanted to make music that sounded like the first time I fell in love, my first fight, my first five-figure check — music that was unique to me.”
“For one year straight, I tried to make a song or two every week. Once it was time to pick the official tracklist for ‘East Daygo Popstar,’ I had over 100 songs to choose from,” Amar said. “I feel like I picked the best 12 that really felt like ‘East Daygo [San Diego],’ a beautiful place with its own struggles — but beautiful nonetheless.”
It might be a little surprising to see Audrey Nuna on this list, considering that she doesn’t think of herself as a rapper. The singer/rapper told NME, “I’m really not [a rapper]. I just love words and if I hear some sounds and I feel like saying some stuff instead of singing over it, then I’ll do that. It’s really just this thing that leaked into my life somehow.” However, when you listen to her flow on “Damn Right” and “Comic Sans,” it’s clear that she’s got bars.
In an interview with Euphoria Magazine, Nuna said “The whole barrier with Asian Americans breaking out into the (music) industry has been an inner industry barrier where these executives sometimes don’t know what to do with someone who looks like this. But I also just think that times are changing in all scopes (with the help of mainstream productions like) ‘Crazy Rich Asians‘. Overall, I think the world is becoming a more open place. I feel blessed that I was born in this era.”
Bonus List of Asian American Rappers to Add to Your Playlists