In Asia, the Philippines is said to have developed the first hip hop scene in all of Asia and the Pacific islands. The birth of Filipino hip hop music, or Pinoy Rap, occurred in the early 1980s with songs by Dyords Javier ("Na Onseng Delight") and Vincent Dafalong ("Nunal"). The genre developed slowly during the 1980s but soon hit the mainstream with Francis Magalona's debut album, Yo! which included the nationalistic hit "Mga Kababayan" (My countrymen). Magalona, who rapped in both English and Tagalog became a pioneer in the genre and a superstar as a result. Mainstream stars rose to prominence in the Philippines, led by Michael V., Rap Asia, MC Lara and Lady Diane, and in Japan, where underground rappers had previously found a limited audience, and popular teen idols brought a style called J-rap to the top of the charts in the middle of the 1990s.
In Seoul, the Korean hip hop scene has expanded into a form of cultural phenomenon. Some fans assert that Korean hip hop artists possess skills that can rival their U.S. counterparts. Notable performers include Jo PD, Drunken Tiger, Psy, and Epik High. Some suggest that Korean hip hop music firmly stands as the respectable and socially-conscious antithesis to an often superficial and confused pop genre that pervades the Korean music industry.
Hip hop music started gaining popularity in South Korea in the mid-1990s. Famous mainstream Korean hip hop performers often resemble R&B or pop music with artists mimicking the vocal (and dance) styles of rap acts from the United States. Early performers—who rarely penned their own songs—included Kim Gun Mo, Seo Taiji and Boys, Deux, and DJ DOC. The Korean language was initially used almost exclusively, unlike modern Korean hip hop songs that heavily incorporate -grossly broken- English. Seo Taiji, coming from a questionable heavy metal music background, often featured heavy metal guitars in his mixes, and other artists also incorporated techno influences.
A few artists, including Seo Taiji and MC Sniper, also incorporated influences from traditional Korean music such as pansori or nongak (farmers' music). It was evident that the first acts were mimicking popular American acts. For instance, Seo Taiji's "Come Back Home" has vocal/production style resembling Cypress Hill. The first "rap" album that featured rap in every track was Kim Jin Pyo's first album in 1997. According to Epik High's rapper Tablo, "The form [of Korean Hip Hop], at least, has definitely been mastered now — the beats, the rhymes, the performances, the look — it’s indistinguishable from the United States scene. The social relevance, however, has a long way to go. The message is slowly catching up to the medium."
Many rap artists have been successful in the mainstream of Korean music. These include performers such as Jinusean, 1TYM, MC Sniper, Jo PD, and Epik High. Other lesser known underground artists who focus mainly on using non-flashy beats and lyrical skill include Quiett, PaloAlto, TBNY, etc.
Korean American hip hop began in the United States in the mid 1990s, mainly attributed to the efforts of the Korean rapper duo Tiger JK and DJ Shine of Drunken Tiger. Drunken Tiger was created after the song "Black Korea" by Ice Cube and used music as a means of cultural exchange and as an attempt to promote racial harmony. Following the success of Drunken Tiger, many new groups and production companies emerged to further popularize the musical style. In order to represent the elite group of Korea's best rappers, Tiger JK and Drunken Tiger formed The Movement Crew (Bobby Kim, Drunken Tiger, Eun Ji-Won and Tasha Reid).
Japanese hip hop (nip hop or j-hip hop) is said to have begun in 1983 when Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style was shown in Tokyo. The movie focused on graffiti artists but also featured some early old school MCs like Busy Bee and Double Trouble, DJs like Grandmaster Flash and break-dancers like the Rock Steady Crew.
Following the showing, street musicians began to break-dance in Yoyogi Park. Crazy A soon emerged as a prominent b-boy, and he eventually founded the Rock Steady Crew Japan, while DJ Krush has become a world-renowned DJ after arising from the Yoyogi Park scene. More DJs followed, beginning in 1985. A year later, an all hip hop club opened in Shibuya. There was some hesitation at the time that the Japanese language, due to the lack of stress accents and highly variable verb endings, might prove unsuited for rapping. A few rappers emerged, however, including Ito Seiko, Chikado Haruo, Tinnie Punx and Takagi Kan.
In the 1990s, teen-oriented J rap music appeared, and hip hop entered the Japanese mainstream. The first hit was Scha Dara Parr's "Kon'ya wa Boogie Back". The following year saw "Da.Yo.Ne." and "Maicca" by East End X Yuri go platinum. Lately hip-hop in Japan has split into two forms: normal, "hardcore" Japanese hip-hop, and the somewhat "weaker", more R&B influenced J-Urban. The group most commonly cited as the originator of J-Urban music is the group m-flo (AKA "mediarite flo). Originally composed of a single Japanese DJ (DJ Taku) and a single Korean-Japanese emcee (Verbal), they combined with a singer named LISA who is of Peruvian-Japanese descent. Their debut album, Planet Shining was released in 2000, and since then, many J-Urban acts such as Crystal Kay, AI, Heartsdales, and even collaborations with pop stars like Namie Amuro and BoA. Other popular J-Urban acts like RIP SLYME have worked with m-flo.
Starting in the late 1990s, hip hop began gaining greater popularity in Greater China, beginning in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and eventually spreading to the Mainland. Taiwanese rapper MC Hot Dog gained stature with his creative beats, off-kilter flow, and vulgar depication of life for disaffected middle class youth in the island nation. The hip hop collective Lazy Motherfucker, representing Hong Kong, have often been described as the Chinese Wu-Tang Clan given the large size of the group and their ill flow. However, frequent aesthetic misappropriations and shiny pop stylings have often left underground heads wanting.
It was hard for Asian hip-hop artists to break into the mainstream in the United States, but in 2002 Chinese-American rapper Jin Au-Yeung (better known as just Jin or Jin Tha Emcee), created a buzz. He won Freestyle Friday seven consecutive weeks on BET's 106 & Park, a show dedicated to hip-hop, and was retired. Jin announced he had signed with the label Ruff Ryders after he won the battle on his final week. This was a breakthrough for Asian-American artists, as he garnished much attention. Two years later, he released an album under Virgin/Ruff Ryder titled "The Rest is History". Jin became the first Asian-American to put out a solo album on the mainstream, though the album was not successful. Many hip hop lovers believe this was because of a lack of promotion as well as the album being pushed back seven months.