When we think of Asian women, does dropping sick bars and moving through fresh beats the first thing that crosses our minds? Probably not. Demure, giggly, and passive is probably more of other people’s speed when it comes to Asian women. The women on this list probably spits on those stereotypes on a daily with their sharp wit and heavy rhymes. From East to South East, ex-pats or locals, we got you. Here’s the ultimate 101 guide to your Female Asian MCs who’s changing the game for the better. — Rogin Warhol
Kiran Gandhi was first the drummer of another iconic Asian MC, M.I.A, before coming to her own as a solo artist in late 2016. She’s far from just another artist. Apart from her music career, she’s also has an undergraduate degree in the following: mathematics, political science and women’s studies. Plus, she received her MBA in none other than Harvard University. Her music is focused on female empowerment and fourth wave feminism. Her EP called Voices is out now where music is available.
Sarah Bonito (Kero Kero Bonito)
Bringing out the colorful and positivity in hip-hop, Sarah Bonito and her band Kero Kero Bonito is changing the game for the sweeter. She’s a former member of a J-pop group in Japan when she discovered Gus Lobban and Jaime Bulled who are now her current band members. Their songs are fun, quirky, and ultimately infectious. She raps in both Japanese and English, bringing the best out of both. A must listen is their new album called Bonito Generation for those after school blues.
Let’s dig underground to uncover one of the most promising and probably the funnest rapper in the scene. Describing her music as kawaii trap, Spacegirl Gemmy is raised in Adelaide, but has a blood of any Jollibee loving Pinoy. She’s probably along the same lines of Kero Kero Bonito. Although, her rhymes are more akin to the vaporwave culture drenched in 90s anime. She hasn’t dropped an album just yet, but you can always find her on Soundcloud!
One of the best rappers in South Korea, Natasha Shanta Reid is born to an African-American father and a Korean mother. After she moved to Korea, she faced discrimination for being mixed raced. She’s a pioneer in Korean hip-hop alongside her now husband Tiger JK and Bizzy. They formed a group called MFBTY. But in her own, her single “Angel” quickly became #1 back in 2014. So as a solo or in a group, she’s a formidable force in the scene.
A Filipino immigrant in Canada, Haniely Pableo started as a full time nurse in the operating room. But a poetry workshop changed all of that. She rapped the tension that comes with being an immigrant in a foreign land away. She raps in Tagalog and Cebuano so young Filipino immigrants could have something to relate to. It’s easy to compare her to other South Asian rappers out there, but her voice is more vital than it seems. Hailing from a country brimming with colonial mentality still, her verses are more prominent and much more needed than ever.
If you won’t like a rapper that has a single called “My Vag”, then better skip this part. Nora Lum is an Chinese-Korean-American rapper hailing from Queens, New York. A lot of rappers talk about the struggle, but some rappers just really have fun with it. That’s what Awkwafina’s doing with her tongue-in-cheek verses and infectious beats. And it’s a plus that she’s starring in the new Ocean’s 11 remake alongside Rhianna, Anne Hathaway, and Cate Blanchett. Her game just levelled up to 100.
Diplo named her “The Nicki Minaj” of Hip-hop and he’s not wrong. The former leader of K-pop group 2ne1 is doing well for herself as a solo rapper. Collaborating with Diplo and G-Dragon, CL entered the game to dismantle stereotypes. Having songs centered around female badassery and feel good music makes her a necessity in this list. “I want to tell the world that there are some badass Asian female girls,” she said to Billboard back in 2014. She’s the living proof of that.