Perhaps the foremost proponent of hip hop in Malaysia, Jin Hackman and co return with Raising The Bar Fest ’16, serving up a cocktail of international and local rappers, singers and DJs. Here's our must-watch list.
K-pop isn’t the only thing the Koreans have to offer – there’s also Korean hip hop (no, not Psy). At the forefront of the internet’s indie scene, Hi-Lite Records’s rapper Okasian – also a crew member of The Cohort – has risen to the top of the scene on the strength of his DIY, IDGAF hustling for hip hop cred. It was him who discovered Keith Ape; he later appears on Keith Ape’s ‘It G Ma’, which went viral in the United States, racking up 16 million views on YouTube. Korean hip hop has appropriated from American artists for years; we don’t deny that Okasian sounds very American, but at the same time, he also sounds very Asian. Listen to ‘Get That Money’ and his remix of Rae Sremmurd’s ‘No Flex Zone’ featuring Play$tar – both feature Okasian’s signature style: eclectic, trap beats and some spitfire rap, all wrapped up in a grungy, raw production.
The alter-ego of New York native Himanshu Suri, Heems is the Indian American former member of joke-rap post-meta trio Das Racist. The group disbanded in 2012, but Heems, arguably the star of the show, very quickly struck out on his own with solo mixtapes ‘Nehru Jackets’ and ‘Wild Water Kingdom’. His debut album ‘Eat Pray Thug’ was released earlier last year and includes collaborations with Dev Hynes; set to skeletal beats, Heems gives us the narrative of a post-9-11 brown man at odds with himself, exploring confessional-style storylines, identity assertion and racism.
Hong Kong’s hip hop culture is coming to its own, pushing rap into the city’s Cantopop-driven consciousness. The man and mastermind behind Wild$tyle Records, a Hong Kong label on the up, YoungQueenz raps in Cantonese and English. His verses, more likely to veer into themes of death and loss than money and materialism, are weaved into bracing beats, with a sprinkling of baroque, jazzy instrumentals.
DJ, live performer and producer B. Bravo hails from sunny California – his music sounds like it too, tinged with electronics, funk, hip hop, R&B and soul. With his slick, soulful future-funk synths, B. Bravo has shared the stage with the likes of Erykah Badu, Chromeo and Flying Lotus at festivals such as SnowGlobe, Sonar and SXSW. A founding member of the Frite Nite crew, he has helped define the modern funk movement. Basically what we’re saying is: He’s good to boogie the night away to.
Mean means business. Following up his EP ‘In Flight’ in 2013, Mean of The.XS Collective very recently released ‘NSFW: Not Safe For Work’, a 12-track body of work that blends style and swagger and substance, steadily gathering momentum with hazy, woozy hip hop beats. One of the brighter stars in Singapore’s rap scene, Mean has drawn comparisons to A$AP Rocky – maybe it’s because they’re both high-fashion heroes too.
The Jay-Z of Malaysia (they’re looking more and more alike, it’s terrifying) headlines the festival, along with Kartel collaborator SonaOne. It’s going to be havoc.
Dae Kim & Yang Ariff
Dae Kim and Yang Ariff join forces for an electro hip hop collaboration. The duo had worked on a Valentine’s Day mixtape before but this will be the first time they’re performing live together.