The Linda Lindas, Saweetie and More Top This Year’s Asia-Pacific American Heritage Month Mixtape

The Linda Lindas perform for Art Bash attendees during the late night bash at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco on April 8. Photo: Laura Morton/Special for The Chronicle

May is Asia-Pacific American Heritage Month, and even in 2022, nothing has changed. Hashtags like #StopAsianHate #VeryAsian and #SorryWrongAsian speak to the collective frustration of a community that still feels targeted yet invisible, familiar yet alien. The music contained in the third annual Chronicle APAHM Mixtape ranges from introspective and vulnerable to empowering and brash. These Asian artists are engaged in the powerful act of putting their authentic selves out there.

Mixtape features alluring sounds of Asian Americans

Bruno Mars, HER, Saweetie and More Make Up The Chronicle’s 2021 APAHM Mixtape

The Linda Lindas – “Growing Up”

“Growing Up” is an apt title for the proudly punk girl group who recently performed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Art Bash. The quartet – whose ages range from 11 to 17 – have been on a rocket ride since the song ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ went viral last summer. The title track from the band’s new Epitaph album, “Growing Up,” is a fireball of youthful optimism born out of more than two years apart.

“Growing up isn’t something we can make happen, whenever we want / But since we’re all growing together, I guess I’ll grow with you.”

Ian Santillano – “Movin’ Nowhere”

I’m pretty sure a song about stasis and dismay shouldn’t be so overwhelming, but it is.

This Filipino American multi-instrumentalist from Hayward has an upbeat R&B anthem on a depressed topic. Santillano’s warm, ear-pleasing vocals are reminiscent of Pink Sweats, and the bubbling beat suggests things can only get better. Check out the video directed by and featuring East Bay Fil-Am rapper Ruby Ibarra.

Alexa – “Wonderland”

This Oklahoman native has been a rising K-pop star (she recently hosted a signing event at San Francisco K-pop store SarangHello in the Sunset District). Now, the young American of Korean origin enters homes through the NBC singing contest “American Song Contest”, where she is one of the best candidates.

“Wonderland” is a catchy pop song with electronic and Latin textures that demonstrates why AleXa is a great ambassador for Asian America and K-pop.

Toro y Moi—”Postman”

Chaz Bear, aka Toro y Moi, has been at the forefront of the blunt electro-pop style known as chillwave for over a decade. Now, his new album takes the Filipino American musician from the Bay Area to freer pastures. And the funk is real – “Postman” engages the head and rear end in this bluesy, surreal excursion that extols the virtues of mail delivery.

Saweetie – “Get It Girl”

This single that kicks off the Season 5 soundtrack of “Insecure” finds the CEO of Icy Gang rapping with assured composure, despite the copycats and sharks invading his space. In Saweetie’s words, “It’s cool, I’m trending.”

The Filipino, Chinese and African-American Bay Area rapper feasts on jealousy and hate over a bicoastal beat that combines an Oakland bassline and a classic 2 Live Crew sample.

Warning: The following video contains explicit language

Joe Kye – “The Exit”

This experimental audio collage by Korean American violinist and looper Joe Kye assembles the sounds and speeches of protest marches with strings, percussion and deep breathing. It’s a thought-provoking piece of art about our social condition that shows the loudest voice in the room isn’t always the loudest.

KSHMR, Timmy Trumpet, Mildenhaus — “Ininna Tora”

For those planning their first big trip abroad, consider booking around an electronic music festival. That’s because you might catch Berkeley-born Native American producer Niles Hollowell-Dhar tearing it down with his orchestral DJ set that mixes his Indian roots with big-room bangers.

His overall mindset extends to this new collaboration with Australian producer Timmy Trumpet and Italian DJ Mildenhaus; “Ininna Tora” reimagines Stylus Robb’s 2008 dance hit (and a Jean Diarra excerpt) and turns it into a huge celebration of life.

Born lyrics featuring Dan the Automator and Sitcom Dad – “This Song’s Delicious”

Three members of the fictional rap group Hello Peril from Ali Wong’s 2019 comedy “Always Be My Maybe” are back — for real this time.

In “This Song’s Delicious,” Berkeley Lyrics Born rapper/epicurean, San Francisco producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and Sitcom Dad (aka actor Randall Park) reunite for a playful track. Keep the rewind button ready, because there are “what did he just say?” lines.

Warning: The following video includes explicit language

Jhalli – “Let Me Be Your Girl”

Salvaging a familiar Hindi slur for young girls, Jhalli (Aaliyah Qureishi) turns heads with her sobriquet. The queer pop single “Let Me Be Ur Girl” confirms your conservative aunt’s worst fears. Against a moody jazz-influenced backdrop, Jhalli lays out the reasons why she’ll rock your world better than her ex-boyfriend: “Maybe he could never move you, curl your toes, but I could satisfy you if you let me be your daughter.” Fire trail.

Esther Young – “The Room Where It Happened”

The San Jose singer-songwriter could have given this soaked confessional a minimalist acoustic treatment and it would be fine. Instead, she uses pumped-up indie guitar, bass, and drums. As Young’s high, confident vocals draw you in, the majestic backing anchors the track and makes you contemplate loss and redemption.

“The Room Where It Happened” is the lead single from her six-song debut EP, “Small Hands, Heavy Heart,” which was released last month.

Bruce Lee Band – “I Hate This”

There is a point where hours of doom scrolling turn into masochism. “I hate that!” embodies that feeling and self-loathing that comes when all that’s left to do is scream. And shout out Mike Park, the band’s lead singer and boss of Asian Man Records, during a killer 90-second ska-punk workout.

Niki – “Every Summer”

On first listen, “Every Summertime” sounds like an old New Orleans R&B song until the lyrics reset the GPS on the misty shores of the Presidio: “18, we were college students/cab/ You were sweating bullets going to my dad’s.

Indonesian singer Niki wraps tightly around this sunny throwback to young love that goes too fast. He appears on the soundtrack for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, curated by Asia-centric label 88rising.

Bonus Beats

Jessi – “Zoom In”

Queens-born rapper Jessi is a veteran K-pop presence, from her salty bars to her over-the-top attitude and style. Aligned with P Nation, PSY’s “Gangnam Style” label, Jessi regularly releases spicy hits. “Zoom” is her final bump, happily checking out the thirst traps she sets. If you think all K-pop looks and sounds the same, you haven’t heard Jessi.

Warning: The following video includes explicit language.

Joyce Wrice & Kaytranada – “Iced Tea”

Japanese and African-American R&B singer Joyce Wrice collaborates with Grammy-winning producer Kaytranada for this confident banger about navigating the relationship minefield. And like the summer drink, it’s cool and refreshing with a healthy dose of caffeine.

Warning: The following video contains explicit language.

Ez Mil – “Re-up”

Ez Mil is a Filipino American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and dancer from Las Vegas, and “Re-Up” is his bilingual empowerment anthem. Switching between English and Tagalog, he goes through a breathless rhythm. More exciting, it invites women around the world to join in an intersectional chant: “We have black girls, white girls, Asians and Latinas, Hawaiian and Islander girls, and all my Filipinas.

Warning: The following video contains explicit language

Starkids – “Letting Go”

Starkids recalls one of 100 gecs, if they were Japanese (two members were born in Hawaii) and influenced by anime, Soundcloud rap and desperation. “Let Go” is their latest assault on the senses, taking their hyperpop sound beyond the Pacific. Check them out and you’ll want to book the next flight to Tokyo to party with them.

Warning: The following video contains explicit language.

Mariya Takeuchi – “Plastic Love”

City pop is a genre of music that originated in Japan in the 80s and is inspired by American R&B and pop. This reflects the period when the Japanese economy was one of the largest in the world and the music reflected this optimism. These days, record seekers have focused on city pop because of its sunny (if necessary) nature, and it’s funky as hell. Mariya Takeuchi’s 1984 jam is the city’s go-to pop track – the “Scenario” of the genre – a song that everyone stops and goes wild for.

CL—”Spicy”

Korean rapper-singer CL led one of the most beloved girl groups in K-pop history, 2NE1. At Coachella 2022, CL brought out the other three members in one of the biggest surprises to emerge from the Southern California desert bacchanalian festival.

“Spicy” features the most pro-Asian line you’ll hear in a pop song (“You’re rocking with the most fly Asians” goes the hook), and the song begins with actor John Malkovich asking questions on Korean condiments. If you haven’t heard this, you really need to spice up your life.



About Joan J. Hernandez

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