Asian American role in the music industry

Asian Americans are slowly making momentum when it comes to their progress in the mainstream culture. However, this progress it slow coming and works in waves. Whenever a talented Asian American comes into the limelight, they receive an inordinate amount of hype. This hype only lasts for so long though, eventually it fades into the background, rarely ever seen again. There have been segments of the mainstream culture that they have been able to have a greater access to than others such as TV, film, and fashion industries as opposed to the music industry. The music industry has been an area in which Asian Americans have not been able to truly break the underground scene.

One of the biggest issues when it comes to Asian American artists trying to create an image in the music business is often they have to omit their true racial identity. Many times they go with the dominant race of their genre or face the inevitable struggle that comes with being Asian American. The music industry has been pretty clear cut that being a different race that what the dominant race is hard to sell. That is why unless they are able to market that difference for a large profit, like Eminem, it isn’t worth it. There have been several singers who are mixed race but are unknown as mixed singers. Singers like Neyo, Cassie, Nicole Scherzinger or Bruno Mars all have Asian roots but are known as different races other than Asian mixed. Neyo might not have been able to achieve his fame in R&B music since that is considered black cultural music if he was established as a mixed singer. These practices of putting genres together with races are pigeonholing people of that race from expanding their musical talents and blocking people from other races from truly experiencing that music. Then there is the rejection of other culture’s music and music culture in America. As well as being discouraged from pursuing interests in certain genres, there is not room to grow Asian music culture in the American mainstream.

The artists that have been able to achieve some sort of audience have turned to non-mainstream ways of producing their music. The most popular medium that allows Asian Americans to have any sort of musical agency is YouTube. When denied from being signed by popular labels they have to resort to selling themselves. Asian Americans have become a race that has been classified as unsellable to the American public and that is why they have struggles breaking into the true mainstream. Although YouTube is not offering a sustained gateway to the mainstream, it is able to open them up to the community and gain some notoriety. Independent artists like David Choi and AJ Rafael have been breaking ground through grassroots campaign appealing to the Asian American community. Gangnam Style by Psy has shown the capacity for YouTube to have Asian music to reach the mainstream. It went viral, with its Asian music style with a notable dance, but then gradually faded away into the ether. The Blue Scholars are a successful rap duo based out of Seattle that are known for their activism for equality for Asian Americans. This group, rather than attempting to please the producers, created their own production company where they were able to create their own sound. They used this opportunity in order to create a voice for themselves. This voice is a voice that fights for equality when it comes to race relations.


The Asian artists who are able to create a successful situation for themselves are looked to as leaders for the community. Jin Au-Yeung (Jin) was a hip hop rapper who was able to come into the limelight through his talent and skill. He was thus able to create an image that Asian Americans would be able to fit in the rap scene which had not really been seen before. He was able to take the insult of his race and turn it into a weapon that helped propel him further into the rap culture. In his first album, he featured songs that emphasized his Chinese heritage and tried to introduce people to his culture. After that he was no longer apart of his label that he originally signed with. Going back to the underground after that, Jin moved back to China to be better received as an artist.


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