It takes a lot to break into the music industry. This statement is even truer for international acts seeking to acquire mainstream success, and for Asian and AAPI artists—an inclusive term referring to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—breaking the barrier has taken hard work and dedication.
Nonetheless, the invisible brick wall separating Asian entertainers from music fans worldwide has been crumbling year over year, sprouting from seeds planted decades ago by acts such as the pioneering Kim Sisters of the 1950s.
Now, as cultural representation in music continues to prove itself integral to listeners, and with access to a wider range of songs, thanks to digital streaming platforms and social media, Asian and AAPI artists have begun to dominate the music scene, presenting, gaining nominations and winning awards at global events, as well as, collaborating with some top names in the industry.
In recent years, a mega shift has taken place. After all, the South Korean group, BTS is currently hailed as the biggest boy band in the world and has been compared to the best-selling music act of all time, The Beatles, on multiple occasions.
Consequently, although once heavily marginalized, Asian acts are now repeatedly landing spots on the Billboard Hot 100 and performing sold-out shows at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, using social media to their advantage to connect with fans globally.
And so, as the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic subsided, album launches, music festivals, world tours, and concerts re-emerged in full swing, presenting the perfect opportunity to get familiar with even more talented Asian artists.
For music lovers, your playlist can truly never have enough good music and that’s exactly what these acts produce. Here are 10 Asian and AAPI artists you need to start listening to now
1. Japanese Breakfast
2. Raveena Aurora
4. Anderson .Paak
Japanese singer, Joji, gained popularity from his online comedic skits, using the alias “FIlthy Frank” on his YouTube channel, DizastaMusic, which now has over 1 million subscribers. Following his success as an internet personality, he adapted the stage name Joji, releasing his first commercial project, an EP titled In Tongues, which peaked at number 58 on the Billboard 200. In 2018, he became the first Asian-born artist to claim the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart with his debut studio album Ballads 1.
Thai rapper and singer, MILLI, earned success early on in her career. After showcasing her talent on the Thai television show, The Rapper 2, she went on to release her hit debut single, Phak Kon, in 2020, followed by the Hip-Hop rap single Sud Pang. An Mnet Asian Music award winner for Best New Asian Artist, MILLI also graced the Coachella festival in 2022, becoming the second Thai artist to do so.