With established global icons such as Bruno Mars, H.E.R. and Apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas, as well as the skyrocketing ascension of superstars like Hailee Steinfeld, Bella Poarch and Saweetie, it is undeniable that Filipino Americans are continuing to make their mark in music. In celebration of Filipino American History Month, here are seven artists of Filipino heritage we’ve got our eyes on!
Don’t let the lack of information about Kajo fool you — this genre-bending songwriter and producer needs to be on your radar. Now signed to Def Jam Recordings, Kajo first gained traction after writing several songs with rapper Logic, eventually joining his label BobbyBoy Records. With an acute awareness of musical history mixed with an ear for the fantastical, his new solo work is fresh and primed to defy expectations.
6. Ashley Mehta
If you use TikTok and are a BTS ARMY, chances are you’ve heard of Ashley Mehta and her viral cover of “Butter.” This is a perfect example of her unique ability to captivate music lovers with her own special twist on pop, R&B and EDM. Combining this multi-genre influence with her Indian and Filipino roots, Ashley’s music is both magnetizing and refreshing.
“How can we live in a way that is true to ourselves? How can we find beauty in the everyday and unfamiliar?” These are the questions Mndsgn explores through his enthralling music. With his avant-garde mix of R&B, jazz and psychedelia, his body of work as a roster artist has contributed to cementing Stones Throw as one of the greatest independent labels in history. In addition to his solo work, he has produced for artists such as Doja Cat, part-Filipino rapper Danny Brown and Tyler, The Creator.
Confident, playful and unrestricted, Kiyomi is quickly carving out her own lane in R&B. Her diverse racial mix (Filipino, Japanese, Black and white) and her roots in the San Francisco Bay Area culture are strongly reflected in her distinct sound and songwriting. At just 18 years old, with a distribution deal with music industry giant EMPIRE as well as songs streamed by millions, Kiyomi will be making waves in the music scene.
3. Tim Atlas
As a singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Tim Atlas can do it all. With his syrupy vocals and signature brand of indie pop blended with R&B and funk, the half-Filipino, Oakland-born artist has been steadily winning over the ears of millions of music aficionados. He’s undergone an impressive evolution since his time as a contestant on the ninth season of “The Voice.”
2. ((( O )))
In her early musical journey, she was known as June Marieezy from Texas, a standout R&B/Soul collaborator with French multi-instrumentalist FKJ. While in search of her decolonized Filipino roots, the eclectic audio/visual artist discovered her deeper self, evolving into the unpronounceable ((( O ))) which self-represents creation. She believes that music is a powerful expression of our DNA and a tool to achieve one’s fullest potential.
Yeekis the ultimate creative, constantly warping the boundaries of music, art, fashion and film. As a singer-songwriter and producer, his personal songs transcend genres and labels, a difficult feat accomplished by his authenticity and visionary DIY musicianship.
As this list shows, Filipino Americans are far more than just superb karaoke singers and cover artists. They are creators, originators and innovators of quality music. From 1962 Grammy Award winner Larry Ramos to present day record-breaking star Olivia Rodrigo, artists of Filipino heritage will continue to impact music culture for generations to come.
Richie Traktivist is a Filipino American music archivist, dj, music licensing manager, event organizer, and founder of TRAKTIVIST - a platform whose mission is to bring visibility and sustainability to Asian American artists. Core to the work is the website/archive - www.traktivist.com. Here you can search by ethnicity, genre, role and instrument. Currently, there are over 1,500 artists spanning from the early 1900’s to the present.
Featured Image via The Sundrop Garden (left), KIYOMI (center), KajoVEVO (right)
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