June 21, 2024

Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ Contributions to Hip-Hop: Then And Now

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During the month of May, we honor the Asian and Pacific American people. There are numerous contributors from this beautiful culture who have made an impact on ours, here in America. This is especially true in the world of hip-hop, where pioneers and newer faces alike have made their mark within that ecosystem. Today, Okayplayer is shedding light on a handful of the Asian and Pacific American MCs, DJs. producers and more.

DJ QBert

A legendary San Francisco Filipino turntablist who dominated the Disco Mix Club World Championships in the early 1990s (winning 3 times), Qbert is hip-hop royalty. A member of the New York’s Rock Steady Crew and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (the first DJ crew to scratch as a band, with each member having a role), Qbert’s presence is felt all over the world. Influencing hip-hop fans with his skill, along with sharing it via his online school Qbert Skratch University, he is a key part of hip-hop culture.

MC Jin

Jin rose to prominence in 2002, due to his run of victories on BET’s 106 & Park battle rap competition, Freestyle Friday. Asian rappers weren’t really prominent in hip-hop at the time, but Jin’s skill and consistency in the battles put him on everyone’s radar. After winning seven battles straight, he entered the Freestyle Friday Hall of Fame, signed a deal with Ruff Ryders, continued to cook the battle circuit, then became a beloved rap star back in China.

Illmind

Boasting a production discography that’s a who’s who of both underground and mainstream rap, Illmind, has truly made a name for himself over the last two decades. Illmind’s first foray into the music industry came by working with Little Brother and Boot Camp Clik in the early 2000s. In 2004, the Filipino producer remixed Jay-Z’s Black Album (The Black and Tan Album), then later produced for 50 Cent, Ludacris, Redman, Erykah Badu and more. Illmind’s breakthrough moment came in 2012, when he produced “The Morning” on the Kanye West-led G.O.O.D. Music compilation, Cruel Summer. Since then, he’s worked with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Future, Lil Uzi Vert, J. Cole and produced for the Disney film, Moana.

Guapdad 4000

First introduced to the world through online comedy skits, Guapdad4000, the Oakland-born, half-Filipino rapper, has fashioned himself a successful music career. His first project, 2017’s Scamboy Color, framed him as a funny scam rapper, but his depth and lyrical talent began to shine through as time went on. His time at the 2019 Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III recording camp really helped him take a leap, as the experience assisted in his development as an artist. After scoring his first platinum song with the ROTD3 cut “Costa Rica,” he dropped his debut album Dior Deposits, then released two EPs in his Platinum Falcon series in 2020. His last project is 2021’s 1176, a collab album with fellow Filipino-American, Illmind.

88Rising

Created in 2015 by Sean Miyashiro and Jaeson Ma, 88Rising has evolved into one of the premiere record label and management companies in the Asian music space. The label has elevated the careers of Dumbfoundead, Rich Brian, Joji, Higher Brothers, and more. 88Rising has also helmed national tours of their artists, and have their own festival, Head in the Clouds, along with a compilation album series of the same name. 88Rising has soared since its founding, and continues to bring the world of Asian hip-hop into its American counterpart.

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