Last month, OC Weekly's Justin Shady created a list of the Top Five Worst Black Rappers and Top Five Worst White Rappers. The following is a list of five Asian-American rappers or rap groups who have found moderate to great success in crossing the color line of hip-hop. Like the two previous lists, this one isn't meant to be comprehensive or definitive. The artists after the jump are named based on their current and former visibility in American music.
1. Far East Movement
Los Angeles' Far East Movement consists of three rappers and a DJ who are of Asian descent. Their first hit single, "Round and Round," was featured in 2006's The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Electronic beats and a radio-friendly sound have earned them mainstream success culminating in a major label release. Last year's hit single "Like a G6" reached platinum status, making them one of the most successful Asian Americans in the industry.
2. Mountain Brothers
Widely considered the first major Asian American hip-hop group, CHOPS, Peril-L and Styles Infinite performed as the Mountain Brothers throughout the nineties until their break-up in 2003. Unlike the Far East Movement, the trio took on more socially conscious subjects and themes in their songs. They found moderate success with two critically acclaimed albums and a major label deal which fell through. Producer CHOPS continues to work in music. His latest success was The Lonely Island's 2010 music video for "The Creep."
3. Teriyaki Boyz
Technically, the Teriyaki Boyz are not Asian American, since they're actually five Japanese artists who comprise a hip-hop supergroup from Tokyo. They never found much mainstream success in the U.S., so why are they on the list? They've had a Who's Who of American producers and rappers featured over two records: Kanye West, Mark Ronson, Ad-Rock, DJ Premier, Just Blaze and The Neptunes. None other than Nigo, the group's DJ and founder of Japan's ultra-hip A Bathing Ape clothing line, would have a rolodex stacked with such heavy-hitters.
4. Das Racist
Heems and Kool A.D. met in Wesleyan University, where a healthy dose of Gayatri Spivak and Michel Foucault gave them the tools to terrorize the right wing. These post-colonial rappers crack jokes like there's nothing offensive about race, except when, of course, it's racist. Heems and hype man Dap are both of Indian (South Asian) descent, and they already know what you're thinking: "Yes, I'm tan, and Taliban chic / Shorty said I look like a Taliban freak."
5. Jin No list of Asian rappers can be complete without mentioning Jin. Sure, he never quite lived up to the hype of winning Hall of Fame honors on BET's 106 & Park, but the freestyle emcee had swagger and rhyme skills enough to compete with other rappers. Unfortunately, his debut with the ill-fated Ruff Ryders label never quite took off. Jin battled through seven weeks of Freestyle Friday to prove to the world he was more than Chinese. Yet in his debut single, "Learn Chinese," he failed to realize his singularity as a rapper: "I ain't ya 50 Cent / I ain't ya Eminem / I ain't ya Jigga Man / I'm a chinaman." Unlike Eminem, who proved to the world he was more than a white kid, Jin only confirmed his opponent's most obvious attacks.