We’re also sharing our selections for the best new Asian hip hop and R&B of 2022 so far, beginning with this list, which includes entries from DX Asia regular, VannDa, as well as Shurkn Pap and Mary Sue’s outstanding new records, and new singles from Toro Y Moi, Awich, and more.
This week, we present our latest round of outstanding releases from Asian artists.
Words by MC Galang and Sofia Guanzon
KEN THE 390 – “Re:verse (Remix)” ft. 漢 a.k.a. GAMI, 鎮座DOPENESS
“Re:verse (Remix)” combines splendidly pop synth work from producer Kan Sano with traditional rhyme schemes courtesy of KEN THE 390’s guests, 漢 a.k.a. GAMI and 鎮座DOPENESS. The track is off KEN THE 390’s newly released album, en route (Deluxe). The Japanese rapper gets reflective on his journey so far, noting how “Anyone is a beginner at the beginning” and letting his life’s work speak for him.
GAMI, on the other hand, gives an oral history of developing his lifelong love for hip hop through discovering MTV and his early start as a freestyle rapper. The double-time delivery counters nicely against the delicate sheen of Kan Sano’s beatwork. — MG
Tracy Gates – “SF to AC” ft. D4NTE & Dexter1ne&only
Up-and-coming Filipino rapper Tracy Gates proudly represents his hometown of San Fernando, Pampanga in “SF to AC,” a standout cut from his debut record, SF U GOT 1NE. Produced by HipHopDX Asia Editor’s Pick alum, shortone, “SF to AC” is a hypnotic number that evokes the atmospheric pull of “Don’t”-era Bryson Tiller. With assists from fellow rappers D4NTE and Dexter1ne&only, Tracy Gates’ “SF to AC” is a strong debut from the rookie MC. — MG
7 shots of Wisdom, Kristyles, Southeast Cartel, Pino G – “EPIC”
Arguably the best track to come out of Def Jam Philippines’ massive REKOGNIZE project yet, “EPIC” lives up to its title not by bombast but with its thematic and lyrical aplomb. Far from its expected form-fitting ‘banger’ predecessors, “EPIC” goes for seasoned subtlety. “Attitude of a young eccentric / My click we live it / Got a vast work ethic,” Pipoy affirms.
A result of an expansive collaboration between 7 shots of Wisdom, Kristyles, Southeast Cartel, and Pino G, “EPIC” is a slowburn cut worth the ride. — MG
Just Hush – “Sa Iyo (Diwata)”
Just Hush’s music has been largely defined by its polished and tempered sensuality, mastering a sophisticated, yet moody R&B-soul palette. His latest offering, “Sa Iyo (Diwata),” which translates to “For You (Deity),” sees the singer-producer completely enamored by someone he likens to a mythic creature.
The song also touches on the Philippines’ rich history of Anitism, which encompasses local classical mythology and otherworldly beings in the indigenous Philippine folk religions dating back from the pre-colonial age, which the lyric video suggests as much. “Sa Iyo” is just the latest addition to Just Hush’s growing body of work dedicated to native beauty—in all shapes and forms. — MG
chelmico – “Meidaimae” (Guest)
Japanese female rap duo chelmico keeps it cheerily brisk in their latest track, “Meidaimae,” a summer-ready track that integrates pop elements with sparse production courtesy of tofubeats. Effortlessly sweet, light, and airy, “Meidaimae” sees chelmico employ their relaxed flows and vocal stylizations, embracing good fun in the track that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. – SG
VannDa – “Bok Kalo”
Cambodia’s VannDa returns with the explosive, “Bok Kalo,” his first single off his upcoming album $KULL 2.The rapper explores his pivot towards a more electronic-infused sound in the track, evident in its bass-heavy production that serves as a canvas for his signature delivery. The single gives curious listeners a peek into the new sounds the hip hop star is set to explore in his forthcoming releases. – SG
keshi – “ANGOSTURA”
Rising Vietnamese-American singer keshi premieres his debut album, GABRIEL, with the focus single, “ANGOSTURA.” Taking notes from his contemporaries (and citing the likes of Frank Ocean and John Mayer as influences), keshi is unafraid in juxtaposing genres and styles. In this latest release, the artist employs more strings to complement his lilting vocals and finished off with a hypnotizing visual. Read more out his debut album here. – SG
Header image: Collage from press images and artists’ YouTube and Instagram accounts