In the past few decades, the growing importance of Asia has been felt in nearly all parts of the world and seems like a mainstay of current news cycles. However, there’s another surprising place where Asian influence has shaped modern culture - hiphop.
From the Wu Tang Clan’s very name and numerous references to Asian culture in the early 90s, to Kendrick Lamar’s “Kung Fu Kenny” moniker, to the more problematic use of Asian culture in the Migos’ “Stir Fry” music video, it is evident that Asian culture has an important presence in hiphop. When did this interest in Asian culture begin, and what impact has it had on the culture?
In addition to Western hiphop’s adoption of Asian thematic elements, the reverse exchange of hiphop into Eastern culture has also occurred with the growth of rap in Asia (a notable example being China’s rap talent show The Rap of China) and the founding of companies like 88rising that promote Asian hiphop culture. However, rather than embracing the growing global influence of hiphop, the Chinese government has taken an explicitly disapproving stance against hiphop, recently banning the depiction of hiphop culture on television. Why did this crossover occur, and why is China trying to stop it?
We want to take the month of April to investigate the interactions between hiphop and Asian cultures. During the 2018 Hiphop x Asia series we will highlight artists from Asia, celebrate the intersection of hiphop with Asian culture, and examine how cultures can draw from each other while promoting mutual respect. Join us for the journey!
To get started with this series, we’ve put together a playlist of songs that highlight the Asian impact on hiphop. Get excited for the rest of the series!
Jeff Chang is a Senior at Harvard College studying Computer Science and Statistics. His favorite artists are JPEGMAFIA and Kanye West.
Christian Floyd is a Senior at Harvard College studying Sociology and Human Evolutionary Biology. His favorite artist is Childish Gambino.