Celebrate Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by checking out music from these great up and coming acts–from hip-hop to synth-pop to indie-rock
Asian pop acts alike BTS and BLACKPINK have taken over the world in recent years, but what about homegrown Asian-American artists? Sure, a small handful of American musicians of Asian descent have made a name for themselves in the US, such as Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, indie singer-songwriter Mitski and house DJ and producer Yaeji. And there are Grammy-winning artists of Asian heritage like Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Olivia Rodrigo and H.E.R. who are well-known among mainstream audiences, though it’s doubtful how many listeners are aware of their Asian heritage. A recent study found that a whopping 44% of Americans can’t name a single famous living Asian American.
But that all might soon change as Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) continue to gain visibility across the entertainment industry. Just as AAPI creatives have been making significant strides in film and TV lately with blockbusters like Beef and Everything Everywhere All at Once, countless AAPI artists have been steadily gaining notice in their respective corners of the music world. In honor of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’ve highlighted ten up-and-coming AAPI artists in genres from hip-hop to synth-pop to indie-rock, and included suggestions for similar acts to check out. There’s also a Spotify playlist at the end of the piece where you can listen to their music.
Hear this playlist on Spotify.
Whether it’s a heartfelt ballad like “Winter Without You” or a dance pop number like “omg” and “Best U Had,” the music of LA-based artist Gloria Kim hooks you from the get-go. The Korean-American singer-songwriter, producer, and DJ layers her sweet, dreamy vocals onto lush soundscapes to create standout earworms; since starting out in 2019, her songs have amassed over 150 million streams to date and earned her nominations for the Hollywood Music in Media Awards and the International Songwriting Award. Her work has also been featured in several films and TV shows, including the award-winning Fox series Empire.
SEE ALSO: Your Crush, Tiffany Day
Chinese-American singer-songwriter Kaz Moon (real name Cody Yao) plays a delightfully unorthodox style of bedroom pop that makes dissonant sounds and disparate genres mesh together beautifully. His perceptive, enigmatic lyrics, coupled with his charmingly lo-fi production approach, have won him a growing loyal fanbase. Earlier this year the Dallas-bred New York City transplant dropped his latest EP STAR ANISE, which mixes droll guitar pop, drifty beats and samples, and sharp, often charmingly self-deprecating lyrics. Having recently completed a North American tour with Korean indie rock band SURL, Moon is planning to release another project later this year.
SEE ALSO: khai dreams, Yeek
Love X Stereo
Composed of Korean-American vocalist Annie Ko and guitarist/producer Toby Hwang, the Seoul-based electro-rock duo Love X Stereo create dreamy, immersive songs that mix synthpop with alt rock, punk rock, ambient synths swirls and singer Ko’s ethereal whispers. Among their many accomplishments, the dynamic pair has played SXSW twice, clinched a best electronic dance album nomination at the 2017 Korean Music Awards and contributed to soundtracks for the K-dramas Love Alarm, Summer Strike and Cheese in the Trap. This past weekend Love X Stereo dropped “Lucid / Dreams,” the lead single from their upcoming EP 안녕 ÄNɎƏŊ (안녕 is a Korean word for both “hello” and “goodbye”), a collaboration with the LA-based avant-pop artist DA1SY DØØM that’s scheduled to be released this June.
SEE ALSO: Mree, Giraffage
Indian-American singer-songwriter/producer/dancer Rhea Raj was drawn to music at an early age, learning Bollywood dance from her mother when she was only two and later competing on American Idol as a teenager. Now at 23, she’s already performed at SXSW, NY Fashion Week, the United Nations and various music festivals around the world, and has been selected as a 2023 Gold House x Spotify Futures Music Artist and a 2020 Songwriters Hall of Fame x BMI award winner. Her bold and sexy choreography and sultry, badass anthems about women empowerment have earned her a devoted international fandom (dubbed “The Rheaverse”). It’ll probably only be a matter of time before all of us are jamming to “Outside,” “Taste That (Mwah),” “Devil In A Dress” and other bangers by this mega-talented star.
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Try the Pie
Led by Tongan-American vocalist and guitarist Bean Tupou, Bay Area band Try the Pie blends Polynesian influences with indie-rock and country in vividly poetic songs. Their music sets weighty topics like death, grief and rebirth, against distorted, Nineties-tinged guitar swirls. Last year the quartet—which also includes drummer Nick Lopez, bassist Bailey Lupo and guitarist Laine Barriga—released its second full-length album, the excellent A Widening Burst of Forever.
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With his effortlessly smooth flow, catchy hooks and funky basslines, this multi-platinum Filipino-American rapper and producer has cemented his status as a Bay Area hip-hop star. In addition to having his songs featured in films and TV shows like Blindspotting, Space Jam: A New Legacy and Insecure, P-Lo—whose actual name is Paolo Rodriguez—has produced hits like Flo Rida’s “GDFR,” Yo Gotti’s “Act Right,” Kehlani’s “All Me” and more. Rolling Stone recently included his 2017 track “Put Me on Somethin’” on our list of the 100 Greatest West Coast Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, and his latest album STUNNA is chock-full of bangers too.
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The New York Times recently described her as one of the Asian women “pop stars taking center stage,” and we’ve got to agree with the paper of record on this one. Vietnamese-American artist Dolly Ave melds elements of pop, rock, R&B, soul and electronic to produce her own unique brand of genre-defying music. “I grew up in circumstances that were out of my control where I felt like I could never leave small town Missouri,” she says. “I want someone to listen to my music, someone not in a big city to be inspired knowing that I too started my career with a webcam, a dream and no real music experience.” Her full-length debut album This Is Our Time is slated to come out in July.
SEE ALSO: Isa, Devyn Moon
Big Phony’s soothing, low-key acoustic sound and clever, heartfelt lyrics might remind listeners of folk legends like Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Born and raised in New York City, Big Phony, whose real name is Bobby Choy, moved to South Korea after falling in love with his parents’ native country and is presently based in Seoul. The indie folk musician has written songs for countless films and TV shows like The Good Doctor and for legendary artists such as Andrea Bocelli and the Korean punk outfit No Brain. He also currently co-hosts The Noonchi Podcast. Choy says that his unusual stage name is a reference to The Catcher in the Rye and “a constant reminder to stay decent and humble.”
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Beloved by EDM fans across the globe, LA-based Chinese-American DJ and producer Yultron is known for putting on electrifying stage performances and engineering high-octane EDM tracks, oftentimes in collaboration with other heavy hitters such as Jay Park, Marshmello, REZZ and many others. Yultron delivers great visuals too, accompanying tracks like “Imma Be A Raver,” “Hell on Earth” and “Let’s Get Down” with music videos that can often be outrageously trippy. Yultron has played at Lollapalooza, EDC Vegas, HARD Summer and other notable music festivals and will be launching his “Rave To The Grave” tour this July.SEE ALSO: Elephante, XIE
This Orange County native shot to fame in 2020 after posting his songs to TikTok and gaining millions of followers thanks to his combination of addictive melodies and raw, relatable, often hilarious lyrics about subjects like growing up queer. (“Like I’m watching a Disney movie and the couple gets it on / But who should I look at, is it Shang or Mulan?” in “Boy Bi”), relationships (“Your starring role, played the part of my lover / Heart spilled, but ran through the gutter” from “in my head”) and other teenage issues (like “that friend,” his take on fake friendships), The singer-songwriter, who is of Taiwanese, Chinese and Peruvian descent, is fast becoming a rising voice of Gen Z. And as his upcoming sophomore EP promises to deliver yet another batch of hits, we’ll likely be hearing a lot more of him very soon.
SEE ALSO: Lyn Lapid, Emily Vu