HipHopDX Asia’s Best Music of the Week series aims to provide distinction to some of the best hip hop and R&B music from Asian artists from anywhere in the world.

In the inaugural edition of Best Music of the Week—published every Friday—we present the grand return of South Korean rapper Huckleberry P and Filipino rapper Al James to the nostalgia kick of JASMINE’s dj honda-produced new single and the compelling message of Taiwanese rapper E.SO’s “Amazing.”

Dive in.

Words by MC Galang and Sofia Guanzon

허클베리피 (Huckleberry P) – “Wolves” ft. Liggy, 안병웅 Ahn Byeong-woong, Basick, 다민이 DAMINI, SIKBOY, and JJK

South Korean MC Huckleberry P returns with a bang with “Wolves”—proving every bit of the dynamite lyricist he’s known for during his decade-plus career. The rapper enlists Liggy, 안병웅 Ahn Byeong-woong, Basick, 다민이 DAMINI, SIKBOY, and JJK for his comeback single, his first since last year’s “La Décima,” featuring Han Yo Han.

Huckleberry P Goes Full Throttle Live With Excellent Old-School Joint, ‘Wolves’

“Wolves” boasts an old-school, East Coast bravado underscored by a grimy, back-to-basics beat by QUE$T WOLF and no-frills live performance of the pack via Dingo FreeStyle. — MG

JASMINE – “Come & Talk 2 Me” ft. B.I.G.JOE

The allure of JASMINE’s latest single, “Come & Talk 2 ME” ft. B.I.G.JOE owes a lot to the legendary dj honda’s ability to helm hits in the making with effortless suave and, more importantly, playing to the strengths of artists he collaborates with.

In this case, the Japanese pop-R&B singer’s radio-accessible vocals—not only delivered in the best ways possible but also with irresistible pep—evoke 2000s R&B-hip hop crossover hits a la Mariah Carey and *insert hip hop titan* and coincidental fun of Jennifer Lopez and Fat Joe (“Hold You Down”).

“Come & Talk 2 ME”—which also shares the title of this writer’s (one of) favorite(s) Jodeci track—does nostalgia the right way. — MG

Al James – “PSG”

Pinoy rapper Al James ends his year-long hiatus with the highly anticipated—and currently top trending music video for YouTube Philippines as of press time—“PSG.”

The Back To The Future-inspired visual speaks volumes about an understandable yearning of a pandemic-free past as much as it obliquely references weed. “PSG” is an acronym for pangsariling gamit, Tagalog slang that means “for personal use.” In this case, the “Pahinga” rapper goes by the norm with a caveat. “Norem ako dito madami /

Norem ako pero pansariling gamit ko lang to / Norem ako dito madami / Norem ako’t ipapasa lang sa mga totoo,” (I’ve got a lot here / I have a lot but for my personal use only / I’ve got a lot here / I’ve got it and passing it to the real ones only).

Al James Returns To Form In ‘PSG,' His First Song In 2 Years—Behind-The-Scenes Exclusive

Pinoy rappers’ history with marijuana has repeatedly brought legal pains to the community (see Loonie and Shanti Dope’s high-profile controversies in the last few years alone) that it’s not surprising rappers have found ways to reference taboo topics (and to a larger extent, illegal substances) with creative license and hope they don’t get themselves in trouble—as is the case with most Asian countries where marijuana is illegal.

In the U.S., a similar position is gaining ground as Jay Z, Meek Mill, Killer Mike, and more rappers push to ban rap lyrics from being used in court and legal proceedings. For now, Asian rappers just need to get creative. — MG

Al jacky – “Father” ft. ataru

Here’s another gem from Japan: Al jacky’s “Father” with ataru combines old-school swagger with a youthful rawness that demonstrates Japanese hip hop’s affinity for foundational structures, beats, and rhythms. Sometimes, old school is the best school. — MG

How Hip Hop Transformed Japanese Culture

瘦子E.SO – “Amazing”

To explore the breadth and complexity of a universal human experience is an ambitious project. Taiwanese rapper and MJ116 member 瘦子E.SO embarks on such a challenge in his atmospheric latest single “Amazing.”

The visual depicts the story of a boy who grows up extremely close with his father, who also works as a pastor at church, veering into his journey towards exploring his own sexuality as he falls in love with another boy at school, which leads to a rift between his relationship with his father.

In a deeply compelling turn of events, the video ends with the couple getting married and their ceremony officiated by the protagonist’s father. “Living on this planet has many contradictions, pains, struggles and, prejudices, but also many beautiful moments,” its video description reads in Chinese. Borrowing elements of gospel rap with choir samples amidst a lush production, the track feels transcendental yet intimate in its own way—with the rapper’s lyricism taking on the perspective of an omnipresent narrator who recognizes the similar experiences of pain that bring people together. – SG

Rich Brian – “Sunny”

Indonesian rapper and 88rising artist Rich Brian has consistently elevated his repertoire and career with an unabashedly honest and Gen Z charm that has seized the attention of a global audience. With all eyes on him now, the 22-year-old rapper’s latest EP, Brightside, recedes any traces of maximalist production to allow his flow and lyricism to take center stage.

EP standout “Sunny” is a reflective track that surveys his early success and the natural anxieties that come with growing up. “I’m twenty-two but feeling twenty-nine and twelve all at the same time,” he performs on the track, employing his uncomplicated approach to wordplay that conveys a sense of depth and melancholy that envelopes much of Rich Brian’s work. As the track reaches its end, “Sunny” is a revelatory confessional of a young boy wrestling with the realities of newfound fame while yearning for home. – SG

안병웅, Khakii – “Get the Bag” ft. Don Mills, SINCE, 365LIT

On another Dingo FreeStyle session, South Korean rappers 안병웅 (Ahn Byung-Woong), Khakii, Don Mills, SINCE, and 365LIT come together in the explosive “Get the Bag.” The rappers show off their impressive flow switches and individual styles as they build on each other’s momentum in the session. Each rapper works together in synergy, with aspects of their delivery from diction to tone highlighting their strengths as artists.

With rap being an element of hip hop that heavily relies on lyricism and the instrumentation of one’s voice, “Get the Bag” serves as a testament to how South Korean rappers of today reinvent the art of rap with their tenacity and rhythm. – SG

iri – “摩天楼” (Skyscraper)

Japanese singer and rapper iri injects new life into city-pop with her funky new single “摩天楼” (Skyscraper). The addictive track fuses funk and disco-pop elements, crafting an infectious sound that immediately moves the listener. The accompanying video takes you on a visual night out on the streets of Tokyo paired with its retro sound that ubiquitously sounds like a track of its time while seeming like something that could have been plucked straight out of a 1980s radio. iri’s raps cut through the fiery arrangements, switching up its pace masterfully with inventiveness. – SG

Wheein – “오묘해” (Whee)

South Korean singer and MAMAMOO member Wheein sheds her K-pop idol niceties to refine her own sound in her solo sophomore mini album with the title track, “오묘해” (Whee). Her silky-smooth vocals trace the inner workings of trying to understand a lover’s enigmatic ways, set against glittering synths and accompanied by dreamlike visuals.

The singer serves an array of whimsical tableaus in the video, where she explores a different alternate realm through each door of a large house. “You are mysterious in some way / Something strange, continue to be mysterious / Secretly, my heart is being touched,” she croons as she ultimately dissolves into a flurry of butterflies by the time the video ends. – SG

Header image: Collage from artists’ YouTube/Instagram accounts