Arts and Entertainment

Raising the Bar for Representation: Celebrating Asian-American Musical Artists

Recommendations of Asian-American musical artists for AAPI Heritage Month

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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to appreciate the history and culture of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. For decades, Asians have been underrepresented in American culture and media. This representation, however, is more crucial and relevant than ever amidst the racial attacks on Asian-Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This month gives us the perfect opportunity to celebrate the rise of talented Asian-Americans and their unique music spanning genres like hip-hop, pop, R&B, and indie rock. Here are some modern Asian-American artists who are reinventing the music industry:


88rising is an American musical group dedicated to elevating Asians in the music industry. Featuring musicians from all over the world, including iconic artists like Rich Brian, Joji, NIKI, Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, and August 08, the group’s albums like “Head In The Clouds” (2018) and “Head In The Clouds II” (2019) deliver powerful pop ballads and catchy rap. The talented artists compose songs with danceable beats and a summer vibe, and they even sing and rap in Mandarin Chinese. Their newest project, “Asia Rising Forever,” was an online music festival that featured Asian artists from around the globe. It gathered over three million views and helped raise money for nonprofit organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice. What started as a small project for young Asians to express their cultural experiences has turned into a global phenomenon transforming Asian representation in the music industry.

Jay Park is a Korean-American rapper who has expanded the K-pop industry. Growing up, Park was a competitive break-dancer and frequently exposed to hip-hop culture. He has written and produced his albums and formed his own Korean hip-hop record label called AOMG. Park combines both his Korean and hip-hop roots, rapping in both Korean and English. His songs are pop-esque with quick raps and catchy beats, sure to leave you dancing until the end. With collaborations with other Korean and American artists like Rich the Kid, Park is certainly using his influence to help redesign the Asian hip-hop industry.


Conan Gray is a half-Japanese artist from a small town in Texas. From posting vlogs and song covers on YouTube, he has since released an EP that has been featured in many magazines like Vogue and Billboard. His first EP, “Sunset Season” (2018), was a widespread hit, featuring slow, nostalgic songs reflective of his high school experience. Two years later, he released his album “Kid Krow” (2020), which garnered global success. Gray’s songs use acoustic guitar and drums to express the frustration with love and friends that accompanies personal growth and change.

Debnever is a Korean-Malaysian singer who learned to make music in her small bedroom. Growing up poor and with social anxiety, music became her escape. She is unafraid to express how she feels through her music, making her messages raw and powerful. The scratchy guitar and slow beats highlight her grungy, hip-hop, and emo vibe in songs like “Ugly” and “Swimming.”

khai dreams, also known as Khai, is a half-Vietnamese artist from the Pacific Northwest. While some of his songs such as “Sunkissed” and “In Love” have been featured on TikTok, they are also mood raisers. Khai’s mellow voice combined with his ukulele strums and lo-fi beats will undoubtedly leave smiles. His lyrics about finding love and growing up are perfect for chilling while watching the sunset outside your window.

mxmtoon, also known as Maia, is a half-Chinese singer from California. Her songs such as “Prom Dress” and “Falling For You” have garnered popularity on TikTok and other social media platforms. Known initially for her ukulele in her first EP “Plum Blossom” (2018), she has since added catchy beats to create a lush music landscape. Her music explores her culture, sexuality, mental illness, and love life.


keshi, or Casey Luong, is a Vietnamese-American artist from Houston, Texas. Inspired by R&B artists like Dean and guitarists like John Mayer, keshi is known for his songs with lo-fi hip-hop beats and acoustic guitar that help listeners unwind and relax. keshi picked up guitar as a kid and posted songs on SoundCloud. He has since released two albums and continues to make music. Listen to “bandaids” and “like i need you” for a great introduction to his music.

Raveena, aka Raveena Aurora, is of North-Indian descent and incorporates her heritage and Bollywood influences into her music, though she is also inspired by jazz and soul. Her hazy, melodic voice, combined with slow drum beats and synths, creates beautiful, dreamy sounds, with songs like “If Only” and “Honey” truly showcasing her soothing music.

UMI, aka Tierra Umi Wilson, is a half-black, half-Japanese artist who began her career in high school sharing music on SoundCloud and YouTube. UMI’s name in Japanese translates to ocean, present in the flowy, lo-fi beats in her songs. Her music, inspired by SZA, is very spiritual and reflects her emotions. Some great songs to listen to are “High School” and “Remember Me.”

Indie Rock

Mitski is a Japanese-American singer-songwriter. Her music utilizes many instruments such as the guitar, piano, and drums. Her voice, conveying a deep longing, gives her music a melancholic atmosphere. Her tracks, though simultaneously sad, sweet, and hopeful, are great for head bopping or sing-alongs. Songs like “Nobody” and “Susie Save Your Love” are great places to start exploring her music.

Whether it’s in hip-hop or indie rock, these musicians are breaking barriers and making history, and it’s important to acknowledge their achievements. By continuing to support and share Asian-American music, we will slowly give these musical artists the representation they deserve.