meta-script5 Artists Showing The Future Of AAPI Representation In Rap: Audrey Nuna, TiaCorine & More | GRAMMY.com
5 Artists Showing The Future Of AAPI Representation In Rap: Audrey Nuna, TiaCorine & More
(From left) pH-1, Audrey Nuna, Spence Lee, Rekstizzy, TiaCorine

Photos: Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW; Robert Okine/Getty Images; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella; Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

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5 Artists Showing The Future Of AAPI Representation In Rap: Audrey Nuna, TiaCorine & More

A growing number of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists are exploring how hip-hop can help them meaningfully express their multiculturalism — and they're being embraced for doing so.

GRAMMYs/May 25, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Is it possible for an Asian American rapper to achieve widespread commercial success? In the 2016 documentary Bad Rap, no one could be too sure. 

At that point, some firsts for the community turned out to be false starts: In the ‘90s, Mountain Brothers was the first Asian American rap group to sign to a major label, but left just two years later. In the early aughts, MC Jin lost critical career momentum he gained from his impressive winning streak on "106 & Park’s" Freestyle Fridays, when Ruff Ryders delayed his debut album release by more than a year. As [Miley Cyrus](https://www.grammy.com/artists/miley-cyrus/18384) sparked a national conversation about [cultural appropriation in hip-hop](https://www.complex.com/music/a/khal/miley-cyrus-appropriating-hip-hop-culture), *[Bad Rap](https://www.inverse.com/article/14637-asian-american-rappers-discuss-stereotypes-and-struggle-in-bad-rap-documentary)*[’s subjects](https://www.inverse.com/article/14637-asian-american-rappers-discuss-stereotypes-and-struggle-in-bad-rap-documentary) faced [questions](https://borrowingtape.com/interviews/bad-rap-qa-director-salima-koroma) regarding whether they’re just as guilty as Cyrus, or whether their music was helping break the “model minority” stereotype.

Since then, hip-hop, a Black music tradition, has spawned countless global scenes, bringing contemporary rap across the Pacific and beyond. Rap taking hold in Asia can still seem contentious, whether dissecting K-pop's use of the genre or revisiting the viral songs that landed Awkwafina [in ](https://twitter.com/its_willyu/status/1162522897589477378)*[Bad Rap](https://twitter.com/its_willyu/status/1162522897589477378)*. But, there is also a growing number of artists who are figuring out how hip-hop can help them meaningfully express and explore their multiculturalism — and are being embraced by the music industry for doing so.  

Audrey Nuna

In 2013, Kanye West’s jarring Yeezus changed Audrey Nuna’s music tastes for good, encouraging her to check out hip-hop artists like A Tribe Called Quest and MF DOOM. From there, she "started making what I wanted to hear," as she told Pigeons and Planes

Nuna prefers to call herself a singer, to better reflect the stylistic versatility throughout her 2021 debut *a liquid breakfast*. Still, the "Robitussin flow" in "Comic Sans" is undeniable — to where Jack Harlow responded to her cold email and hopped on the song’s remix.

The making of *a liquid breakfast* made Nuna realize that she never has to search far to find inspiration. On "Blossom," Nuna’s grandmother laughs as she tells her about how, while fleeing the Korean War, she woke up from a nap on the migrant trail to find that her travel group — including her family — accidentally left her behind. 

In the future, Nuna hopes to feature [more Korean instrumentation](https://djbooth.net/features/2022-05-30-audrey-nuna-interview-audiomack) as she channels [her current influence, Radiohead](https://theface.com/music/audrey-nuna-interview-rapper-singer-bobblehaus-space). As Nuna [told ](https://www.wmagazine.com/culture/audrey-nuna-new-ep-liquid-breakfast-interview)*[W](https://www.wmagazine.com/culture/audrey-nuna-new-ep-liquid-breakfast-interview)*, "We’re sitting here, living, because our grandparents were able to survive." 

pH-1

"She fell in love with the lifestyle of a pop star," pH-1 raps in "Yuppie Ting," the third track off his 2021 album *But For Now Leave Me Alone*. As he boasts of the Louis Vuitton he wears and the Michelin star meals he eats, pH-1 alternates between rapping in Korean and English with impressive precision, his flow skating over BlackDoe’s garage-inspired production. 

Behind the scenes, pH-1 has felt more torn between the Korean and Western music industries than his music lets on. Even Jay Park, who has followed pH-1 since he moved to Korean and competed on rap talent show "Show Me the Money," [once told him](https://youtu.be/1jdrkHBwVqk) to write more in Korean. But for pH-1, to write exclusively in Korean would be to deny his Stateside upbringing in Long Island and Boston, and how he, [like so many Korean Americans](https://www.shondaland.com/inspire/books/a36178058/crying-in-h-mart-michelle-zauner/), naturally alternate between Korean and English in conversation. 

"If I want to ‘financially succeed’ in Korea, I would have to make a song that’s very Korean-style. But that’s not me," pH-1 [said to fellow artist Eric Nam in 2019](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jdrkHBwVqk). Instead, the more glittering spots of *But For Now Leave Me Alone* showcase pH-1 to be the experienced globetrotter he is. 

Rekstizzy

In *Bad Rap*, Rekstizzy films a music video where, at a cookout, he squeezes picnic condiments not onto hot dogs, but the backsides of dancing Black women — for a song called "God Bless America." In his larger quest to become the ["Korean rapper"](https://koreanamericanstory.org/written/the-new-model-minority-profile-of-rekstizzy/) he dreamed of in elementary school, he figured that  outrageously offensive visuals were a must." "Whatever we do, people are gonna talk shit about us ‘cause we’re Asian," he says in the documentary. 

Straddling the Asian and American aspects of one’s identity can seem impossible. But now, years after *Bad Rap* and after guest appearances in *Adventure Time* and *Beef*, Rekstizzy seems to have figured out an ideal balance. Mostly, he doesn’t seem nearly as pressed over proving that he’s American. 

His own pop culture references, crude as they may be ("May cop a lewd body pillow on Etsy"), speak volumes. His music’s debaucherous nature recalls a wide swath of [U.S. regional rap styles](https://hiphopdx.com/en_asia/news/id.63712/title.the-music-that-shaped-rekstizzys-killer-smile), from the Bay Area ("요리 (Yori)"), to the Midwest ("Mal Do An Dweh") and Atlanta ("Hentai"). As for his attempts to rap entire verses in Korean for the first time, apparently the jokes write themselves. As he and *Bad Rap* co-star Dumbfoundead realized while recording "Mal Do An Dweh," their takes on Korean slang sound hopelessly out of date, [because as the latter realized](https://youtu.be/FZOJPLrppIA?t=517), "We communicate in Korean more with our parents than our friends who speak in Korean."

Spence Lee

Spence Lee is the child of a first-generation Chinese American and a Vietnamese refugee. But for much of his earlier material, his ethnic origins were hard to discern on record alone.

Spence Lee’s previous moniker, Shotta Spence, honored the ["Dirty Jersey"](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjd79d7-ggI) that raised him — more specifically, the Caribbean supporters he gained before he relocated to New York, modeled for Yeezy, and gained producer Mike WiLL Made It as a mentor. That influence also appears all over his last full-length, 2019’s *1012*; on songs like "Bounce," his cadence is equally inspired by reggae and trap. 

Spence still shouts out how he came up with "shottas" and "rastas" on the autobiographical single, 2022’s "On God," one of his first under a new moniker bearing his family name. But that fact makes up just one chapter in his larger journey to capturing both the attention of Mike WiLL and 88rising, who jointly released the single. Mike WiLL explained to [Joysauce](https://joysauce.com/spence-lee/) how he and 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro saw "how Spence could be the bridge for many cultures, being from Jersey \[and\] into fashion, understanding his history, having principles and morals." 

But Spence perhaps puts his new direction best in "On God," when he raps, "I do all this s— for my mom."

TiaCorine

TiaCorine (whose father is Black and Japanese, and whose mother is part of the Shoshone Nation) ends her 2022 breakout album, I Can’t Wait with a breakup anthem dedicated to the poor music exec who counted her out. In "You’re Fired," she raps to keep from crying and sounding completely helpless: "You never listen to my songs, I’m always doing something wrong."

Today, her sly single "FreakyT" has 21 million Spotify streams and a Latto remix, it’s impossible to imagine how the situation in "You’re Fired" must have played out in real life. 

TiaCorine’s music is Southern rap by way of Hatsune Miku — and it makes perfect sense, in an age where streaming has turned both hip-hop and anime (two of her biggest influences) into Stateside juggernauts. Her music captures the zeitgeist, though it also comes from an authentic place: While her father played formative ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop in his Range Rover, her mother blared pop-rock instead. "That goes into my music — of me, just being free. Me just being confident in myself," TiaCorine told *[Preme](https://www.preme.xyz/blog-2/from-the-desk-of-tia-corine)* [magazine](https://www.preme.xyz/blog-2/from-the-desk-of-tia-corine). Thanks to that confidence, mainstream success not only seems possible, but inevitable.

[10 Must-See Exhibitions And Activations Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop](https://www.grammy.com/news/50th-anniversary-hip-hop-museum-exhibits-events-activations-fotografiska-baltimore-museum-of-art-1520-sedgwick)

RIIZE press photo
RIIZE

Photo: SM Entertainment

interview

K-Pop Group RIIZE Detail Every Track On New Compilation 'RIIZING – The 1st Mini Album'

In an interview, the rising K-pop boy group discuss the creative process behind each track on their brand new EP — including the album's new song, "Boom Boom Bass."

GRAMMYs/Jun 18, 2024 - 01:37 pm

While RIIZE might be a more recent addition to the K-pop scene, you wouldn’t be able to tell. 

The sextet of Sungchan, Anton, Wonbin, Sohee, Eunseok and Shotaro took the industry by storm last September with their debut single "Get A Guitar." The catchy, retro-synth pop song sold over a million copies in the first week of its release.  

From their debut in 2023, RIIZE was determined to carve out a space for themselves in the expansive K-pop landscape by performing "emo pop" — emotional ballads that still manage to be danceable, evoking the sounds of older gen groups like Got 7 and Super Junior — while also experimenting with other genres. The brightly alluring "Love 119" and disco whirlwind "Talk Saxy" allowed RIIZE to continue their ascent, and netted the group Favorite New Artist and Rookie Of The Year honors at multiple Korean award ceremonies last year.  

On June 17, they'll release RIIZING - The 1st Mini Album. The compilation record features all of the rookie group's releases plus an additional song "Boom Boom Bass," and demonstrates their versatility and willingness to experiment with genres. With their output compiled, it's easy to see that RIIZE's youthful energy and distinct personalities truly shine. 

Learn more: 11 Rookie K-Pop Acts To Know In 2024: NCT Wish, RIIZE, Kiss Of Life & More

"We wanted to reflect on how far we’ve come from our debut days and growing as artists," Anton tells GRAMMY.com over a video call from L.A. "[The album is] a culmination of our journey and experiences as young adults who are pursuing their dreams."

It’s clear that RIIZE are enjoying the ride they're on together. They laugh at each other's jokes and finish each other's sentences, demonstrating that there's deep friendship behind their already tight harmonious connection. The group is in the midst of an international fan-con tour that runs through the summer — an experience that will, likely, deepen their already close bond. 

In an interview, they offer a track-by-track breakdown of RIIZING - The 1st Mini Album, including the creative process behind each song, how they keep themselves motivated, and their musical dreams for the future. 

"Siren" is your pre-debut song and was one of your most anticipated releases. Can you share a bit about the creation process and how it felt to release this song to the world? 

Shotaro: We have a lot of fond memories when we think of "Siren" as it reminds us of our trainee days. We recorded the song while we were still rookies and shot the video in L.A. I remember being in the studio and encouraging each other to give our best deep voices to make our voices shine. 

Eunseok: I think a large part of why people like "Siren" so much is the rhythmic drum beats and soft piano riffs that creates this high rush vibe. The chorus is my favorite, and was the most fun to sing as it’s very addictive to sing along to.

Your most recent song, "Impossible" is a house track about being determined and never  giving up. Were you nervous at all venturing into a new genre? 

Anton: Growth and youth is a huge part of our music, and that’s something we sought to achieve with "Impossible." House music is a genre that is not usually seen in K-pop, but this is something we wanted to experiment with. So we learned firsthand from long-time house music creatives and input their suggestions into the recording. It was a new experience that allowed us to deep dive into a genre we wouldn’t normally be familiar with.

Sohee: The recording was a little difficult at first, because the vocal keys were a bit higher than our usual pitch. But I feel like we successfully encapsulated the genre very well.

Your new song — the special addition to the EP — is called "Boom Boom Bass." It's a disco-influenced track about playing bass guitar; does anyone in RIIZE have experience playing that instrument?  

Wonbin: We do have experience playing the bass guitar. Getting to recreate those moments in the studio was awesome, and you can hear the excitement in our voices. The song also showcases a totally different side of us that fans haven’t seen before: it’s disco but funk and still pop.

"Love 119" is one of your most successful songs. Can you take me back to the day you recorded it? 

Sungchan: "Love 119" captures the feeling of falling in love for the first time in a dreamy and melancholic manner. We decided to recreate that in the studio and put a lot of our emotions into it by channeling good energy. 

Wonbin: The song samples a beloved Korean song, "Emergency Room," released by the band called IZI in 2005. The song captures the distinct charm of emotional pop, offering a different appeal compared to "Get A Guitar," "Memories," and "Talk Saxy."

Shotaro: We aimed to create choreography that many people could follow. While brainstorming in the practice room with Wonbin, he and I came up with dance moves like the "1-1-9" gesture, that you see in the video. The song has a really bright vibe, making it fun for us to perform. 

Can you detail the creative process behind "Talk Saxy"?  

Sohee: We started creating "Talk Saxy" right after performing at KCON L.A. in July last year and we learned the choreography almost immediately.

We wanted to embody a more confident and breezy sound but still within our niche genre of emotional pop. It took a few weeks of practice to get the perfect take and I think the song helped expand our musical sound by a large mile.

Read more: 9 Thrilling Moments From KCON 2023 L.A.: Stray Kids, RIIZE, Taemin & More 

One of your more recent singles, "9 Days," focuses on your journey as a band. Did you find yourselves feeling nostalgic in the studio?   

Sungchan: "9 days" has a more natural feel because while we were making the song, we had to reference back to our trainee days in practice. The lyrics are a very detailed description of our trainee days and who we were before debuting.  

Anton: I would say we had a fun time in the studio because it felt like we were finally telling our story ourselves and being able to share that with our fans is the best.  

"Honestly" reminisces about past love. What, or who, were you thinking about while recording it? 

Wonbin: I think we really aimed to capture the theme of putting yourself first and saying a final goodbye to someone you thought the world of. That resonates throughout the song, especially in the lyrics. It’s an emo pop ballad at its core.

"One Kiss" was RIIZE's first foray into emo pop and sets you apart from other groups as you highlight your vulnerability. How did you go about finding that sound?  

Anton: I see "One Kiss" as a song made with our fans in mind, we had a hands on approach with making the video as we wanted it to come from our hearts. 

Sohee: I would not say we have found our sound yet as we are still growing and experimenting. We hope to create more good songs like "One Kiss" in the future.

You’re in the midst of a fan-con tour, what has been your favorite city to tour so far?

Shotaro: We love every city equally, we started off in Korea and felt right at home. In Japan, we had so much eye contact with the crowd as they were very hands on. Previously, in Mexico, the crowd's energy was infectious and awesome.

What are your plans for the second half of this year?

Sungchan: We plan on finishing off our fan-con tour by the end of August. Our fans can expect to see us at end of the year award shows with bigger and better performances from last year.

11 Rookie K-Pop Acts To Know In 2024: NCT Wish, RIIZE, Kiss Of Life & More 

 

Atarashii Gakko! press photo
Atarashii Gakko!

Photo: James Baxter

interview

On 'AG! Calling,' Atarashii Gakko! Declare That Youth Is Never Lost — No Matter Your Age

"Our concept is for everyone. It does not depend on how old you are as long as you're living and enjoying the moment," Atarashii Gakko!'s Kanon says of the group's raucous new album.

GRAMMYs/Jun 10, 2024 - 01:31 pm

As is with most legends, there are different accounts of how the members of Atarashii Gakko! met.

Some say they met in a supermarket aisle when they all reached for the last pack of discounted sushi, others say they’d known each other as kids. Yet others claim that the hallowed halls of their to-be-company Asobisystem were hard at work to rescue humanity. Whatever the story, the wheels of fate were turning to put together a foursome poised to fight the invisible but omnipresent monster of boring, soulless adult life — armed only in their sailor uniforms and chock full of sizzling energy.

Dramatic retelling aside, the quartet — Suzuka, Rin, Kanon and Mizyu — might not be battling titanic fictional villains, but they are up against an equally fearsome foe: boredom. Their recently-released album, AG! Calling, reinforces the quartet’s image as a paragon of fresh, zany energy that sends a shock through sluggish veins. AG! Calling is an escape from the drudgery of the everyday, and Atarashii Gakko! believe it's their "destiny" to spread the joy of seishun (youth) to the world. 

Slotting in perfectly with the group’s core ethos, the "calling" in AG! Calling is taken from the Japanese kanji "Korin," which has a dual meaning of descending, as well as one’s own calling. On their single "Tokyo Calling" — released seven months ago and now included on the album — the group descends upon the concrete metropolitan facade of Tokyo, with Mizyu’s characteristic helicopter ponytails swinging full speed. The group makes an urgent announcement: "Don’t hesitate to move forward! Hope for the future is here!" They repeat this mantra and call forth a ball of light from the sky, leading everyone from mundanity to freedom.  

It’s a proverbial full-circle moment for the group, who heralded themselves as the "Youth Representatives of Japan" — their name in Japanese is Atarashii Gakko no Leaders, or New School Leaders — and championed finding and embracing your individuality in the face of a highly conformist society. Early releases like "Mayoeba Totoshi (If You Get Lost)" confronted listeners with hard-hitting questions: "What is the meaning of freedom? If it’s just acting like an adult, I disagree. Let me find it myself." The eerie and relentless "Dokubana" (2017) bemoaned the fate of an outlier in society, which is "scorned and hated" until it withers in place. 

By the time they got to "Nainainai" — their first release under 88Rising — the group had condensed their ethos into pointed critique wrapped in effervescent eccentricity, representing the unique worldview that the biggest rejection of conformity would be to boldly embrace who you are without rejecting the confines of society outright. With a decidedly '90s-inspired hip-hop sound, the track veered from calling out the pressure students face in school to being miffed about being a late bloomer. Their calling card was their retro-inspired school uniforms, a sound that couldn’t be shoved into a pigeonhole if one tried, and energetic dance moves inspired by Kumitaisou, Japanese gymnastics symbolized by pyramids, which became an extension of the profound feelings on their songs. 

As they have expanded their world — marked by performances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," a successful debut at Coachella this year and performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona — and inched further into adulthood, "seishun" has evolved from a philosophy to a way of life. AG! Calling rejoices in its reinvention of everyday tedium and positions them firmly as the cheerleaders of a liberated way of life. 

Below, Atarashii Gakko! talk about AG! Calling, their successful Coachella performance, and how their core philosophy will develop with them. 

You guys just came off of a very successful Coachella set. How was the entire experience? 

Suzuka: We have been together as a group for nine years, and the show at Coachella was like, Ah, that was why we had to be together, we had to form the group The live performance was the answer of the meaning of being together as Atarashii Gakko! That's the kind of feeling we had.

Suzuka, you actually said in an interview earlier this year that participating in Coachella will bring you one step closer to Beyoncé. Once you wrapped up the performance, did you feel that way? 

Suzuka: [Jumps up and flashes a thumbs up.] Yes! I took one step towards Beyoncé! 

Rin, you got the chance to meet Lauryn Hill, whom you have cited as an inspiration and an idol. Do you want to share how Lauryn Hill has inspired you? 

Rin: My father is a hip-hop fan, so when I was a child, I had already started listening to hip-hop music and Lauryn Hill. And then during [our] last U.S. tour, we — because she was playing in L.A. for her 25th anniversary — went to see her live, and I bought a t-shirt and everything! 

And this time at Coachella, we knew that YG Marley, her son, was going to be playing but we didn't know that she was going to be there! So, I was thinking, like, maybe we'd have a chance to see her or whatever. 

But then I accidentally saw her — she had finished the stage and she came out – and I was like Ahhh; I was shaking! She was very... mother-like, and like "Oh, thank you!", and she was smiling and she took a photo! The first time I saw her I was like Oh yes, she's real! She exist!' I was very happy she treated me like a mother.

Speaking of mother, you guys were also featured on Japanese musical icon Sheena Ringo's album recently. She had lovely things to say about you in an interview, particularly that she was "overwhelmed" working with you guys. She called you "reliable" and "dazzling" — that's a glowing recommendation from such an icon.

Suzuka: We're so happy! Of course, she's very big and we are very overwhelmed and thinking [that the collaboration was] the result of not changing our style and not taking the easy way out! We think it's the result of nine years of effort, and we're so happy that she said that.  

Let's come to 'AG! Calling.' When you guys first started singing about "seishun," you were treating it as something light, something you guys were having fun with. But in this album, you're calling it your destiny, which has a finality and weight to it. Can you describe the evolution of this concept?

Rin: This is not like a result of getting somewhere. From the initial stage, we've had seishun as a philosophy, and we were having fun and enjoying the moment. Rather than being a final point, AG! Calling [represents] our nine-year trajectory: all our experiences of having fun, receiving and giving the power [of youth]. It's like a resumé: this is Atarashii Gakko!, and this is our power. This is us now. From this point, we will keep moving forward. That's what we want people to see. That's why we're flying and floating [on the album visuals]. 

On your early releases, your songs talked about problems that teens and high school students have. But now, you've grown into adulthood. How has the concept of "seishun" evolved in this aspect? 

Suzuka: That's also a coincidence because "Nainainai" was kind of like our first record [under 88Rising] — like a presentation of what we were. We were teenagers too. We were more fresh, we were younger, we were going to school and everything. But now we're facing the world. We are speaking to more people, not only teenagers, so we wanted to focus on the world [going] from a child to an adult. Maybe it was just the right timing.

How do you think this concept will evolve with you guys over time? Youth isn't something that stays with us forever.  

Kanon: In the first place, the "youth" that we were conveying had nothing to do with age. Maybe you think that "seishun" is only for teenagers, but our concept is for everyone. It does not depend on how old you are as long as you're living and enjoying the moment.  

Now that we're adults, we still have [seishun] because we're putting in all our efforts to live and enjoy to the maximum. Whatever the age, if people can enjoy the moment, that's seishun. That's the philosophy we've had from the beginning, so we haven't changed anything about that concept. 

What was the development of this album like? Where did you guys primarily work on this? 

Rin: We began last summer with "Tokyo Calling." 

Suzuka: I don't know exactly how long it was, because we’ve been bringing demos to LA for about two years. It's all mixed, because there were some demos that we didn't put in the last [album]. So we were like, 'Maybe we can change this song a little bit, we can release that one, can remix an old one or compose new ones." So, it's a mix - some are older, and some are new.

Mizyu: We don’t make demos for [specifically] this album or that record. We keep making trials and demos with our producers in LA and Japan, and maybe [the songs] can be on an album, but our style is always looking for new songs.  

I noticed that a lot of imagery on this album was inspired by heroes. When you performed "Tokyo Calling" on Jimmy Kimmel, the outfits were inspired by Ultraman. There are tracks like "Superhuman" or "Hero Show". What was the reason behind this? 

Mizyu: It's true that we are kind of like superheroes [in terms of] the performance and the uniforms. Maybe from our name as well – Atarashii Gakko no Leaders – you already get the ‘superhero’ vibe because we are trying to just have fun, but we are also helping you if you're sad or tired. We are giving you power. We are helping you, so "Superhuman" and "Hero Show" are the results of that. 

You collaborated with MILLI on the song "Drama." How did that happen? Had you heard her music before? 

Rin: Actually, "Drama" was kind of an old song we recorded by ourselves in LA a few years ago. We had this in stock for quite a long time. We were thinking of releasing it with maybe like a plus [factor] or something extra, so that's why we decided on the collaboration with MILLI. We didn't actually record with her, but for us the [final] song is still a fresh creation. But maybe in the future, we can get the chance to sing together or collaborate. There's more possibilities in the future. 

Let’s discuss "Forever Sisters," which focuses on your bond, especially in context of how much you have grown over the past few years. Did you feel like it was important to remind yourself of your relationship with each other? 

Suzuka: "Forever Sisters" is a very important song for us, because we made this song when we were visiting L.A. and working with Money Mark, and we kept working on it online [between] Japan and L.A. It's very special to us, so when we were thinking about the songs we wanted to put on the album, all four of us agreed that this song has to be on AG! Calling.

And also the message — we are more than friends, more than family. Our relationship is very special and very important. It's beyond anything [I can explain]. So this song had to be on AG! Calling, because we're starting a new journey going global.

Money Mark is a longtime collaborator for you guys, along with yonkey. In some ways, some of these people were there as you were establishing your signature sound. So as you expanded globally, did you have conversations with them about how you wanted to develop your sound? 

Suzuka: Yes, we always keep having these kinds of conversations all the time. And from "OTONABLUE," our Japanese team with Yoshio Tamamura — they have a lot of knowledge about the music and what they want to show as Japanese culture, what they want people to perceive as Japan. [Songs like] "Omakase" and "Toryanse" understand that very well. 

We keep having those conversations. The energy that the four of us have and how to go from this point on, they understand that and give us the sound, and we record it and put our lives into it. It's always a good session. 

You guys will celebrate your 10th anniversary next year. Any special plans?  

Suzuka: We still don't have the details of the 10th anniversary actually, because we are living in the present. We're thinking about this year's concerts, but for sure, we will have something big. Maybe [when] we're reaching the time when we start our 10th year, but right now we're not thinking about it. 

Sometimes, for your shows, you write Shuji calligraphy on paper and stick it all over the venue. In a video in 2021, you did one such exercise where Rin wrote the Kanji for "Dream," Kanon wrote "Diligence," Mizyu wrote "Take a relaxing break," and Suzuka wrote "Life." If you had to do the same exercise again, what would you write? 

Suzuka: [To be honest] We're not sure what we wrote! Right now, if we had to write something, we're not very sure [of that either]. Maybe today, we write one kanji and tomorrow, it might change. That's the reality. We're not very sure what Kanji we will write individually.  

Rin: But [if we had to write something] as Atarashii Gakko!, we're very sure about that. The other day, in an event, we put up a big Shuji [calligraphy], like four meters by six meters, which we put together and we wrote AG! Calling. The word "calling" was written using the kanji for "Korin" in Japanese – that was very suitable, and very real as a group from us. So, as a group, we can say AG! Calling is what we will write. 

10 Neo J-Pop Artists Breaking The Mold In 2024: Fujii Kaze, Kenshi Yonezu & Others 

 

Alex Ritchie, Emily Vu, Myra Molloy, Alex Aiono, Brooke Alexx in collage
(From left) Alex Ritchie, Emily Vu, Myra Molloy, Alex Aiono, Brooke Alexx

Photos: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images; Robin L Marshall/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images; Disney/PictureGroup; Sam Morris/Getty Images

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10 Exciting AAPI Artists To Know In 2024: Audrey English, Emily Vu, Zhu & Others

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, get to know 10 up-and-coming AAPI artists — including Alex Ritchie, Curtis Waters and others — whose music spans geography and genre.

GRAMMYs/May 13, 2024 - 01:16 pm

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have made strides in the music industry for many years. Every year, more AAPIs enter executive roles in the industry, increasing their visibility and impact.

Artists in the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora — including Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak), Olivia Rodrigo, and H.E.R. — have graced the stage and won golden gramophones at Music's Biggest Night. During 2024 GRAMMY Week, the Recording Academy collaborated with Gold House and Pacific Bridge Arts Foundation to create the Gold Music Alliance, a program designed to foster meaningful connections and elevate the impact of Pan-Asian members and allies within the Academy and wider music industry. 

Yet, AAPI groups are significantly underrepresented in the music industry. Pacific Islanders are often forgotten when it comes to lists and industry due to their smaller percentage in the population.

Despite the lack of representation, social media and streaming platforms have introduced fans to new and rising artists such as Chinese American pop singer Amber Liu, Japanese American singer/songwriter Mitski, and Hawaiian native Iam Tongi. Others are showcasing their sound on the festival circuit, as San Francisco-based indie rocker Tanukichan and Korean American guitarist NoSo did at last year's Outside Lands festival. With AAPI-led music festivals, such as 88 Rising’s Head in the Clouds and Pacific Feats Festival, artists in this community are given opportunities to exhibit their talent and, often, their heritage. 

For many emerging artists, a like, reshare, or subscribe can help them gain the attention of mainstream studios and bolster tour attendance. So, in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, check out these 10 up-and-coming AAPI artists performing everything from pop to soulful R&B and EDM. 

Alex Aiono

Maori-Samoan American singer Alex Aiono moved to Los Angeles from Phoenix at 14 to pursue a music career. After going viral for his mashup of Drake's "One Dance" and Nicky Jam’s "Hasta el Amanecer," Aiono now has over 5.73 million YouTube subscribers. He was then cast in several popular films and television series, including Netflix’s Finding Ohana, Disney Channel’s "Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.," and "Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin."

But, for the 28-year-old R&B/pop singer, music has always been his calling. Aiono released several singles and, in 2020, a full-length album, The Gospel at 23. Inspired by his experience in Hollywood and his relationship with his religion (as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), The Gospel at 23 plays on the simplicity of a piano, drums, tambourine, and a choir, beautifully fusing modern soul with the old-fashioned gospel. Since then, the artist has released tender medleys – with his most recent heartbreaking single "Best of Me."

"I view this as a very, very lucky life that I get to express myself and that's my job," he told AZ Central. "My quote-unquote job."

Alex Ritchie

L.A.-based singer/songwriter Alex Ritchie has been honest about her journey as a queer mixed-Asian woman in the industry. The Filipino-Japanese-Spanish artist said she was constantly overlooked or told she wouldn’t be commercial enough in the American music industry.

"I’m the only musician in my family, and I came from a family of humble means; so even though I had conviction in what I wanted from a young age, it wasn’t realistic," Ritchie told GRAMMY.com in 2019. said. "Pursuing something like entertainment was so risky. I couldn’t afford to fail. We couldn’t afford to dream like that. BUT I had unrealistic dreams anyway, and after my first gig at the Whisky I knew that was it."

Ritchie has been thriving in the industry, becoming the youngest sitting committee member in the history of the Recording Academy’s Los Angeles Chapter, advocating for LGBTQ+ and Asian American representation in music. After her experience with GRAMMYU in 2019, the alternative rock singer released 404 EP and several sultry singles, including a melodious and fervent love song, "Blueprint," released this January. Ritchie plans on releasing more music and on her terms. 

"Time and people have finally caught up with the vision that I always had for myself, even if they didn’t see it before," Ritchie tells the Recording Academy. "One of the things I’m most proudest of is that I never really changed. I’ve stayed exactly who I am to the core. I think when you do that and when you realize there’s no one else like you, you become the most powerful person in the room."

Audrey English

**You may not have heard of Audrey English, but you have heard her music on "America’s Got Talent," "American Idol," and Netflix’s "Love Is Blind." Her songs are featured on the shows during the most prominent moments of the contestants’ lives on screen: In "AGT" and "American Idol," English’s rendition of "Lean On Me" played during golden buzzer moments and emotional arcs; er song "Mama Said" went viral after being played during Ad and Clay’s wedding scene in season 6 of "Love Is  Blind."

Inspired by Etta James, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse, the Samoan American artist swoons audiences with her soulful, powerful tone with songs that focus on relationships, empowerment, and love. English also showcases her culture in her videos; in the music video for her harrowing ballad "Happy," English featured the beauty of Samoa alongside a Samoan romantic love interest. She hopes one day to write a Samoan song. 

In her latest single "Unapologetic," released on April 25, English wrote the song as an anthem for others to live without shame. "In a world where we are so influenced by others, social media, and being our own worst critics - sometimes we need to take a step back to realize it all doesn’t really matter," English wrote on Instagram. "Regardless of your beliefs, background, and passions, this is a call to be authentically you, however, you define that!"

Brooke Alexx

**Brooke Alexx’s bubblegum pop personality is infectious, and her catchy hooks, including her latest pop-rock single, "Hot Like You," are fit for everyone’s summer playlist.

Alexx has never shied away from revealing intimate parts of her life. The Japanese American artist writes her music from her experiences as the oldest child, being best friends with her exes’ moms, and her connection to her Asian roots. 

In her 2022 gentle ballad, "I’m Sorry, Tokyo," Alexx reveals the shame she once felt for not wanting to learn about her Japanese heritage, as well as the guilt she feels for never learning the language and culture. "There’s so much about the culture that I don’t know and missed out on that would be so cool to be a part of my life now," Alexx told Mixed Asian Media. "So, I’m trying to return to those roots a little bit these days."

She is now making up for lost time. Alexx embraces her Japanese heritage and will visit the country with a select group of fans

Curtis Waters

Curtis Waters doesn’t care for commercial success. Despite going viral on TikTok in 2020 for his raunchy, satirical, catchy song "Stunnin," the Nepalese Canadian-American alt-pop artist was unhappy with his career trajectory.

"I made some songs that I don’t fully love, hoping they would catch the same success as 'Stunnin’," Waters told Atwood Magazine. "But doing that made me depressed, so I had to stop and remind myself why I started making music in the first place."

Water's new album, Bad Son, was released on March 27. His press release says it is "a true immigrant story, a reflection on a young, brown creative being thrown into the mainstream overnight while navigating deep issues of self-doubt and cultural identity along the way."  

Waters didn’t intend to share his immigrant story but struck inspiration as a way to cope emotionally and be honest with himself. Filled with high-energy beats, elements of indie rock, and experimental hip-hop, Waters reveals an ardent part of himself through his breathy vocals and introspective tracks.

Emily Vu 

Vietnamese American pop singer Emily Vu has accomplished much in her 22 years: She amassed over 1.2 million followers on TikTok, her song "Changes" was featured in the 2023 Netflix film A Tourist’s Guide to Love, and is part of the Mastercard Artist Accelerator program. Her catchy pop tunes, including the recently released single "Heartsick," are inspired by personal moments in her life.

Vu has always been open and sure about her identity as a queer Asian woman. She came out in her 2020 music video for "Just Wait," which featured numerous women symbolizing her previous relationships. "The music video reflects how my past relationships are still burdens to me and how I still carry those experiences with me wherever I am," Vu told Stanford Daily, "I see myself being really happy with my life in a few years. I want to be happy with all that I’ve been doing and all the people I’m around."

Four years later, Vu still releases music and captivating fans on TikTok with her earthy vocals and angelic covers. Vu tells her followers on TikTok, "I just want to let you all know that I’m back. I’m going to be annoying you all every single day until I get bored."

Etu

Fijian American artist Etu is ready for the new era of the island industry, which is expanding far beyond island reggae and into different genres. "We got artists who do pop, R&B, and country. We’re going to embrace the things we bring into this," the island pop singer told Island Mongul.

Inspired by artists like Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and Fiji, etu's hypnotic and haunting vocals fuse beautifully with traditional island music. The dreamy track "Au Domoni Iko" ("I love you" in Fijian), from his 2022 EP Spring Break, lays smooth harmonies over Fijian beats. The EP itself is filled with memorable melodies, upbeat pop styles, and uplifting lyrics. 

Etu has released singles for the past two years, including island renditions of Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors" and Rihanna’s "Lift Me Up" in February. He’s set to release his debut album, SZN I,this summer. 

Etu believes Pacific Islanders are on the cusp of greatness in the music industry. "This is our moment right now," he continued to Island Mogul. "We’re moving into this era, in this season, where we get to make history… Come join this part of history or they're gonna tell it for us."

Myra Molloy

Thai American singer and actress Myra Molloy was merely 13 years old when she won "Thailand's Got Talent." She continued working in Thailand on Broadway productions and landed in the Top 6 of ABC’s Rising Star. As she pursued a music degree from Berklee College of Music, she found her love for music production and songwriting.

In 2021, Molloy dropped the sweet acoustic "stay." During the pandemic, she decided to apply the skills she acquired from college to her EP, unrequited. Released in November 2023, the album blends Molloy's soulful vocals with organic and electronic dance beats. It also marks her producing debut. 

"The hardest part for me was overcoming this impostor syndrome that I couldn’t be a producer (who was taken seriously, haha)," Molloy told Melodic Magazine. "Or that I wasn’t good enough to put out music I self-produced. I always give myself a hard time. But I feel like once I got into this "flow state," things just kind of came to me very quickly and naturally, and I would come out of a producing trance. Top ten best feelings."

As an AAPI advocate, Molloy has long called for more inclusion in television, film, and music. "I just want to see more. We are coming along slowly, but I want that to be faster. It should be more. I just want to see people taking more initiative." 

Shreea Kaul 

R&B singer Shreea Kaul embraces her Indian heritage by fusing her silky falsetto and soulful pitch with South Asian and Bollywood sounds. Her "Tere Bina" and its accompanying music video are heavily influenced by her cultural upbringing.

Kaul wanted to be a crossover artist for Western and Indian audiences but found the lack of foundation for South Asian music challenging. 

"There's so much power in community, especially in the South Asian community. We stick together. We support one another. The talent is undeniable. It's only a matter of time before people are going to catch on," she said on the "DOST" podcast. "What a lot of platforms are doing right now by bringing South Asian talent to the map is exactly what we need. So I've been trying to get myself into these spaces or just be around the community more because that's what it's going to take."

On her 2021 single "Ladke" (Hindi for "boys"), Kaul contacted fellow South Asian singer REHMA to collaborate on the song. The harmonious R&B track smoothly fuses Western elements with South Asian languages. Kaul received an overwhelmingly positive response for the song, which motivated her to keep going.

"There’s a spot in the market for artists like myself—for South Asian artists, in general," says Kaul. "Whatever degree of South Asian you want to be and incorporate into your music, there’s space for it."

ZHU

Chinese American experimental EDM music producer ZHU recorded his fourth studio album inside the historic Grace Cathedral. Released in March and fittingly titled Grace, it blends trap, gospel, dance, rock, and pop with synths, organs, and strings to create a sinister, sensual tone that perfectly complements his signature sultry vocals.

Grace pays homage to the legacy of the Bay Area and its impact on his life. "The recording of this project, as well as the whole purpose and design and visuals, has a lot of tribute to [San Francisco] thematically. I think a lot of people don’t even know that I grew up there," ZHU told EDM Identity.  

At the end of the recording, ZHU and his team donned black cloaks and held a concert in the cathedral, sharing the new album with thousands of lucky fans who could attend. Like the symbolism of the cathedral, ZHU’s album represented the themes of religion and his connection to home.

"I’ve never really shared a part of the city, but I think it’s time to pay some tribute to some of the great influences that have come through the area," says ZHU

Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Rising Women In Hip-Hop 2023
(From left) Tkay Maidza, Doechii, TiaCorine, Armani Caesar, GloRilla, Ice Spice, Bktherula

Photos:  Martin Philbey/WireImageMichael Loccisano/Getty Images for Coachella, Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images, Marcus Ingram/Getty Images, Kayla Oaddams/Getty Images, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images 

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14 New Female Hip-Hop Artists To Know In 2023: Lil Simz, Ice Spice, Babyxsosa & More

Women are pioneering the future of hip-hop, and their styles have never been more pronounced. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, listen to 14 rising female artists that you should keep an eye on in 2023 and beyond.

GRAMMYs/Jul 13, 2023 - 06:00 pm

Hip-hop has long been a male-dominated space, despite the success and indisputable influence of female generational talents. From the jump, women have overcome gatekeepers and expectations, beginning with MC Sha-Rock, then via Salt-N-Pepa, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, and more recently with Gangsta Boo, Nicki Minaj, City Girls and Noname have overcome gatekeepers and expectations. Contemporary acts such as GloRilla are continuing their efforts and reaching a demographic that had never been excessively marketed to in hip-hop: women who want to hear rap music from women.

Rap is slowly becoming a more inclusive space — with an audience that’s finally willing to carve out a space for diversity and sex-positivity for all genders — and open to a myriad of subgenres, with female rappers leading the pack. In 2021 did Cardi B became the first female rapper to acquire a diamond-certified single. Any club in America that doesn’t play Meg Thee Stallion should be considered a rarity. Ice Spice is the first female drill rapper to break into mainstream culture. 

The stage has been set for a new generation of artists, largely thanks to the genderless, wide reach of social media platforms. Today, misconceptions which hide the grit of Gangsta Boo, the explicit sensuality of  Lil’ Kim, and the lyrical and political expertise of Noname are beginning to dissolve. The glass ceiling has broken, giving into an exponential increase in the number of female artists: ramblers, trash talkers, storytellers and sexually-charged drill rappers. 

Women are pioneering the future of hip-hop, and their styles have never been more pronounced. GRAMMY.com offers a list of 14 rising female artists that you should keep an eye on in 2023 and beyond. 

Sexyy Red 

Odds are, you’ve heard "Pound Town." If you haven’t, lie low for the next few minutes as the St. Louis rapper spares no detail from her sexual exploits.

Much like Lil’ Kim, Sexyy Red is not only sex-positive, but infamous: "My coochie pink, my booty hole brown, I just left Pound Town," she declares. Sexyy Red also encourages empowerment, uplifting women’s self-worth. On "Hellcat SRTs," she proclaims to her fellow compatriots: "Bad bitches, we like fast cars. We like n—s that sell drugs with fast cars." 

In all seriousness, Sexyy Red is audacious, confident, and the next hottest rapper to come out of St. Louis. Keep your eyes peeled and listen to Hood Hottest Princess from earlier this year whenever you need to hype yourself up.

Babyxsosa 

Ex-SURF GANG member Babyxsosa was one of the first viral rappers to breakout on TikTok during the pandemic, but her story goes much further than the bright tones and oddly-sporadic drums of "Everywhereigo." Her dainty, autotuned voice and lush soundscapes make her the Internet’s iteration of a soul singer. She’s warm and intimate, using simple lyrics in order to croon through feelings of desire and despair. 

At heart, however, Babyxsosa is underground hip-hop’s Billie Eillish crossed with PinkPantheress. Beats mutate to the sound of her voice. Where her singles of the past four years have ranged from cacophonous, leady synthesizers to elevator music dapped with 808s, her recent EP, Bling Bling, is demonstrative of eery, melodic versatility, laying muted-verses to club beats, using range of different experimental digicore instrumentals to challenge herself as both a vocalist and songwriter.

Hook

Hook can’t be likened to any one sound in hip-hop. Some of her beats beep like 8-bit minigames, others are made of single oscillating synthesizer chords; generally, her production has a heartbeat that fades in and out and loops, giving each song its own life, and agitation thereafter. 

The Riverside, California-raised rapper seethes in her verses, rambling out of frustration and joy and disappointment and confusion and anger and disgust and sadness and every emotion in-between. Still, Hook and her avant-garde approach to rap is erratic and hilarious and lyrically distinct in every way.

Armani Caesar 

Armani Caesar is the first and only female rapper on Griselda Records, which has featured Boldy James, Mach-Hommy, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher and more. Like the latter three, Armani Caesar hails from Buffalo, N.Y. delivering gritty, tooth-and-nail stories of the streets, but with a bit more rhythm than a dusty ’45 record. 

She incorporates pop rhythms and seeks more towards the disco-era and modern technology for a cadence that’s just a hair shy more uptempo than soul. Armani Caeser’s rhythm is infectious, but her lyrics are venomous. Look at the cover art to her single, "Diana," cover art, she’s Lil’ Kim had she hustled in Buffalo.

Little Simz

Though Little Simz is not necessarily a rising artist, her success has been exponential since the release of 2021’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. The UK grime-turned-amorphous rapper of equal parts technically flawless and lyrically awe-inspiring. Over garden party-esque orchestral swells she can deliver a poem penned to her own empowerment, but she can also rap a 16-bar verse with a live band almost breathlessly. 

She’s punchy and energetic, sentimental and adamantly altruistic. A fire burns in Little Simz, and the spark is fanned with each beat of the drum.

Amaarae 

Where hip-hop has begun to transition towards two extremes — heavy metal on one side and drumless beats on the other — Amaarae presents a hidden alternative. The Ghanaian vocalist ushers in a new conception of hip-hop, bringing an Afro pop influence that's reminiscent of Doja Cat’s debut album, Hot Pink.

Amaarae produces her own work, blending traditional Ghanaian instrumentation and polyrhythms with a digitally-created drum circle. As the music claps into double time, Amaarae’s voice speeds up and down, wavering between rapping and singing. She does it all, and after the viral success of "SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY" and its remix with Kali Uchis, Amaarae dropped a new EP in July, Fountain Baby, scoring the scorching heat of the summer. 

Tkay Maidza  

Creating an electronic collage of house, club, drum n bass, afro beats, and live drum breaks, Tkay Maidza exceeds the term "multi hyphenate." Whether she’s collaborating with JPEGMAFIA or Flume, Tkay creates dystopian worlds in her soundscapes, cut with screeching basslines and glitching snares. Her music is neo-R&B as she deems fit, soulfully calling on Kari Faux for over articulation on "Don’t Call Again;" it’s rage rap on the industrial track, "Grasshopper;" it’s even a derivative of EDM in her latest single, coyly titled, "Silent Assassin."

Flo Milli 

Flo Milli is the young, happy-go-lucky artist within this new crop of talent. Her voice is an alto and her lyrics are just conceited enough to radiate excellence while delivering some of hip-hop’s most clever remixes for Gen Z listeners. 

Whether she’s rapping to Ethereal’s beat on Playboi Carti’s "Beef" or to Too $hort’s "Blow the Whistle," Flo's enfranchising rhymes drive confidence and sexual prowess into her listeners. On "Roaring 20s," she playfully takes on the role of Daisy from The Great Gatsby, fascinated by ragtime-inspired production and men who would give up anything to spend a few minutes with her. That’s the magic of Flo Milli: she’s animated, fluidly jumping to whatever style and aesthetic she deems worthy of her exhibition.

CLIP 

In her many lives, CLIP has graduated from NYU, had a flourishing career in journalism, and ended up in Los Angeles amongst the next generation of Soundcloud artists. Her music is a melting pot of these cultures and influences. On her recent PERCEPTION EP, she includes drum n bass-inspired beats on songs like "Happy;" her breakout single, "SAD B!TCH," border on cloud rap with their ethereal mixing; her recent single, "sunset blvd" incorporates the croons of emo rap. CLIP has already become a rising star without releasing a single full-length project. 

Her voice is soft and melodic like Babyxsosa and her production matches the mild psychedelia of Hook’s use of filter. CLIP incorporates the downtempo eeriness of Houston chopped-and -screw tapes, drowning out her own braggadocio through internet-coded soundscapes.

TiaCorine

Hailing from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, TiaCorine has the swagger of a Gangsta Boo, coloring her lyrics with braggadocio and slick, staccato phrasing. Her instrumentation is wavy and pompous, featuring warped 808s and the glossy sparkle of xylophones and high-pitched synths.

TiaCorine stands out for the way she meshes her Southern cadence with disjointed, bubblegum beats,  drum machine hi-hats and Jersey club-style kicks. She’s erratic yet sweet; she’s cutesy like pluggNB yet arrogant like JT and Yung Miami.

Vayda 

Compared to Hook or CLIP or Babyxsosa, Vayda would be their prodigal child of the forthcoming generation of digital media consumers, aiming for an even more stimulating derivative of industrial hip-hop: hyperrap. Vayda creates starkly genreless hip-hop, jumping from Jersey club to sample-based beats to trap hi-hats for short, digestible tracks typically landing at under 90 seconds. Her music is uptempo and comes in waves of focused attention, etched with sporadic bass drum kicks similar to Evilgiane’s in SURF GANG and Cash Cobain’s hyper focused, sample drill 808 patterns.

Vayda isn’t concerned with regionalism and having a sound attributable to any one place. Her beats sparkle and shimmer, they dash like bodies towards the DJ at a club, and Vayda is at the forefront, leading the new school.

Doechii

Akin to the Southern, tongue-twisting legend Young Thug, Doechii’s vocal inflections twist and contort, wringing out sonically and lyrically emotive verses. For the Tampa-born artist's stuffy intonation squirms in your ear on tracks such as "Stressed," and genuinely evoke the emotion. 

Alongside labelmates Isaiah Rashad and SZA at TDE, Doechii stretches her syllables for zig-zagging hooks against everything from double-time drums on "Crazy" to dancehall on "Persuasive."

Bktherula

Bktherula is hip-hop’s response to grunge and punk rock. Her aesthetic varies from neon colored braids to skull tees, each in a slightly different shade of black. The Atlanta rapper references punk's yearning screams and whispers in her own groaned melodies on songs such as "Tweakin’ Together" and "FOREVER, PT. 2 (JEZEBEL)."

On tracks such as "TAN," however, that Bktherula’s music matches the aggression of punk, using warbling synthesizers and arcade-sounding, drive-heavy snare. Bktherula flexes, showcasing not only technique but preemptively taunting anyone with the audacity to diss her.

Ice Spice 

Last but certainly not least is America’s most talked about drill rapper since Pop Smoke (RIP). Arriving from the Bronx, Ice Spice became popular after coining the term "munch," referring to selfless, sexually-pleasing men. Her sex appeal, her gospel of female empowerment and her creative free-spirit enabled by SpongeBob SquarePants samples and Zedd flips, puts Ice Spice as the queen of virality in 2023.  

How is she wielding her superstardom? With now-refined drill beats, melodic collaborations with UK-sensation PinkPantheress, and working with some of the most influential women in hip-hop from New York — including her idol-turned-peer, Nicki Minaj.

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