As we approach the second half of 2022, we continue to go through a nearly immeasurable amount of music from Asian musicians from our side of the world and the diaspora.
The last few weeks have been shaped by returning artists. Since our last installment of our “Best of 2022 (So Far),” we saw the (controversial) comeback single of Filipino singer-songwriter FELIP (a.k.a Ken of SB19), “Bulan,” which spotlights local lore.
Forbes releases this year’s “30 Under 30” Asia list, which includes Warren Hue, Yung Raja, Sya, and more. Indonesia’s NIKI is going back to her musical roots in her upcoming sophomore album, Nicole. Another 88rising artist, JOJI, returns with his first single after two years.
Cambodian rap superstar VannDa also previews his forthcoming SKULL 2 album with more tracks, including the standout “Parenthesis,” which is included in this list. Scroll down to read what we at HipHopDX Asia have to say about this month’s best hip hop and R&B music.
Words by MC Galang and Sofia Guanzon
VannDa – “Parenthesis”
Released along with “Life is a Game,” the R&B-inflected “Parenthesis” expands the Cambodian hip hop superstar’s stylistic horizons. More textured, lush, and mellow compared to his edgier and adrenaline-fueled hits, “Parenthesis” also allows fans to see a more relaxed side of VannDa as he takes pleasure and respite from music-making and the in-betweens.
The accompanying video, also far from the typical high-stakes scenarios and setups we’re used to seeing from VannDa, features him and his fellow Baramey Production artists (including an adorable pup) preparing and sharing a meal.
The track is a departure from VannDa’s current repertoire, favoring lush R&B production, thanks to background vocals from Sophia Kao, Laura Mam, and Nick. The track was co-produced by Mut Phearin, Songha, Daniel Chea, and Daniel Omens. It’s a tender—and chic, thanks to gorgeous background vocals from Kao and Mam—addition to VannDa’s already-stellar discography. — MC
GOT7 – “Two”
Since GOT7 members went on to pursue their solo projects following their departure from JYP, Yugyeom has showcased his capabilities to helm a pop-R&B album for not just GOT7 fans but acquired new ones (such as this writer)—just give his 2021 debut, Point of View: U, one of HipHopDX Asia’s best albums last year, a listen.
In his stellar contribution to the GOT7’s comeback self-titled EP, Yugyeom (along with co-writer Distract and composed with dr.ahn) flexes anew his suave R&B sensibilities to anchor his and his fellow members’ vocal strengths as they lament a disintegrating relationship.
It also demonstrates how the South Korean artist can hone in on different dynamics, especially within a collaborative setting: how the verse eases or swells into the chorus, depending on whose member is singing, brief rap quips (brrrtt, brrtt), and the dramatic bridge. — MG
JMara – “GAPOS” ft. ZAKI
Prolific Filipino rapper JMara offers a vivid portrait of mental anguish and depression in one of his standout releases of 2022, “GAPOS” (Bound). “Dumating ang kalungkutan sa buhay kong ito / Nawalan na ng panlasa sa mga bagay na gusto / Aking enerhiya’y bigla nalang nagbago / Ako ay binisita ng malungkot na mundo.” (Sadness came into my life / I have lost taste in the things I want / My energy suddenly changed / I was visited by a sad world).
JMara attempts to make sense of his feelings, trying his best to reconcile with his inner demons (“Bumubulong si Satanas” or “Satan is whispering”), while featured artist ZAKI contends with self-loathing, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. — MG
Joji – “Glimpse Of Us”
Japanese internet sensation-turned-singer-songwriter Joji’s music career is often characterized by his openness to share his vulnerability while maintaining his private life under wraps. After the release of his 2020 album Nectar, Joji went on a social media hiatus, leaving fans grasping for any sort of new material in the past two years.
Joji’s approach to music is, seemingly by design, a fortress of its own. Finally, after two years, he emerges with a new piano-backed single, “Glimpse Of Us.” The stripped-down atmospheric stylings compliment Joji’s introspective approach, feeling less like a grand comeback and more of a confessional. – SG
FELIP – “Bulan”
Last year, FELIP made his solo debut with the single “Palayo” (Farther), wherein the member of SB19 also known as Ken, traded the maximalist demands of pop music for left-field R&B sensibilities, earning his place on our list of HipHopDX Asia’s “20 Best Songs of 2021.
In his comeback single “Bulan” (Moon), the Filipino singer and songwriter pays tribute to the grandeur of Filipino mythology, while delivering a larger message of resilience that resonates with anyone who yearns for such reassurance.
In the video, FELIP faces the mythological dragon-like monster Bakunawa, executing precise choreography reminiscent of a shamanistic ritual. Throughout the track’s lyricism, FELIP is the embodiment of fire, a king, and a god. Both a visual and sonic feast, the track is rich with vibrant imagery and genre-bending gambles that prove to be a triumph. – SG
Various Artists – “WODA NO. 6” Volume 3
In our May edition of the Best Asian Hip Hop And R&B Of 2022 (So Far), we recognized the Volumes 1 and Volume 2 of the large-scale “Woda No. 6” project. The cypher brings together 49 Nepali rappers across six states and this time around is led by DXNG / BIKEY LAMA. In the video description, the project mainly aims to showcase the power of unity amongst the artists.
At HipHopDX Asia, we’ve extensively discovered and continue to uncover the gems of Nepal’s industrious hip hop scene. With this last installment of “Woda No. 6,” it not only makes history as the biggest cypher in hip hop history but serves as a platform for these Nepali rappers to highlight their distinct performance styles and talents. – SG
Header Image: Artist photos via official YouTube channels