Spotify is using its platform to lift up the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community at a time that’s arguably more important than ever.
Billboard can exclusively share the first details on the streaming service’s plans for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month that launches today, May 4, with “Our Roots. Our Sound.” The campaign kicks off with the Amplify: Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month hub that highlights playlists, podcasts and other listening experiences from those established and rising in the community.
From hosting their own content to curating playlists, the likes of Steve Aoki, Jai Wolf, Eric Nam, Anik Khan, Riz Ahmed, Rich Brian, Yuna, Conan Gray, Rina Sawayama, NIKI, mxmtoon, Raveena, Yaeji, Madame Gandhi, Stephanie Poetri and other artists, creators, and influencers are teaming up with Spotify throughout the month.
“Visibility and inclusivity are more important than ever for Asian communities, and we’re proud to support the amazing talent that represents the incredible diversity and art that comes from Asian-American and Pacific Islander creators,” Marian Dicus, vp, co-head of music at Spotify, says in a statement. “Through this hub and our other initiatives celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are able to spotlight the rich culture that makes our communities so vibrant and authentic this month and year-long.”
Spotify’s AAPI Heritage Month hub is available to listeners in the U.S. and Canada with updates coming throughout all of May. Read on for additional thoughts on this year’s campaign, the importance of AAPIHM in 2020 and more exclusives from some of the artists involved.
What AAPIHM means to me: For me and all Asians, our month is every month. I’m just happy we get celebrated this way, the dialogue is about us — that’s what’s important. Our voices are somewhat marginalized in media or marginalized in pop culture so when you get to shine for that moment, it’s important. There’s a lot the community has been doing on a cultural level, in music and entertainment, and especially in science with what’s happening with COVID-19 with the scientists who have been working on better treatments and a vaccine. The list goes on and on.
The importance in 2020: With all the racism and all the violence towards Asians — not just in America but around the world — it’s getting discussed here and there and I really appreciate the strong voices that are raising awareness. Of course, there’s subliminal racism that we deal with, but it’s this confrontational racism that you don’t see all the time. And yes, it does still happen. The fear of doing normal activities is something we have to face because of this tension and ignorance that’s breeding. With AAPIH Month being celebrated, we can talk about the positives not just for our specific communities but communities in general for all people.
Spotify tips: Some of the biggest songs on Spotify are not even in the dominant language of English. Whether it’s Spanish or Korean topping the charts, the non-dominant language is having a very large voice — I’m all for that. I love this thriving energy that happens not because of radio, but because of streaming services that allow a non-dominating culture to have a profound impact on culture at large. Thanks to Spotify for allowing a platform for Korean artists to have hundreds of millions of listeners.
Artist recommendations: Production-wise, I’ve worked with BTS and Monsta X, and Lay Zhang is a member of EXO and an incredible Chinese singer who’s on the song “Love You More” off Neon Future IV. Recently I worked with Indonesian artists, Agnez Mo and I have a song called “Girl.” The list will continue moving forward, but also in their native languages too. I just got into Rina Sawayama, I’m just loving her album, her voice is spectacular and I’d love to work with her. I think she’s just scratching the surface of what she can do. Another artist I love is Hayley Kiyoko, I don’t want to give too much away but I’m a big supporter of hers.
What’s next after AAPIHM 2020: It’s now widely known that I’m a K-pop fan and I work with K-pop artists. Recently, I did a song called “Refresh” with Kang Daniel and Zico and I’m really happy they sang it in Korean. I produced the song, and [Laughs] I’m pretty proud of the production! I love the song and I really hope it has the legs that it is as an anthem to keep it going. Starship [Entertainment] is really good at promoting their artists and songs, I have no doubt the song will continue to do what it’s supposed to do. And due to popular demand, we’re going to shoot the music video for “Girl” with Agnez Mo and Desiigner — the fans keep asking about it — it hasn’t been easy but she has a huge, awesome fandom that’s been pushing the song so we’re definitely doing that.
What AAPIHM means to me: It’s a good way to reflect on our culture and our history. It’s also a good time to check the current landscape of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the music industry.
Spotify tips: Every year when Spotify does their thing for AAPIHM, there’s always playlists to check out and I feel like I always find new artists. The pathway to discovery is really great. I make electronic music and, especially in my world, there’s not too many who are of Asian descent. I have my friends that I already know about but playlists are great to discover new people not just in my genre but in other genres as well.
Artist recommendations: I’m from Bangladesh so I’ve been keeping my eye on other Bangladeshi artists. Anik Khan is a rapper whose name I’ve seen for a few years but only recently did I really start paying attention to him. Another guy, Robin Dey, is an R&B singer who did a song with Anik, “Regardless,” that’s super cool. Raveena was supposed to play Coachella, but she’s South Asian and has been blowing up too since her debut album Lucid came out. One organization that’s always exciting to look at is 88rising, they’ve made such a massive moment, I love so many artists on their roster like Joji, Rich Brian and NIKI.
What AAPIHM means to me: People will sometimes ask, “Why do you need a month? Why do people need certain weeks?” Whatever community you’re a part of or whatever you identify as — whatever it is: Black, Latino, LGBTQ — we have months and periods of recognition to step back, appreciate, and celebrate who we are and how we identify. In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter, but we’re not at that place yet. It gives us a reason to be more collaborative and more encouraging of each other no matter what industry.
The importance in 2020: With coronavirus and the rise of hate speech and crime and race-motivated unfortunate decisions and actions, I think it’s more important than ever to be more vocal and more visible. It’s very very timely in that sense…I’m very fortunate in that I’ve been isolated away and haven’t felt anything directly, but there have been points where I’ve been walking outside or going to get groceries and, I like to think they’re trying to social distance, but some people will completely look the other way or look at me in a weird way. It comes from a place of fear and ignorance. It’s very scary for a lot of people, including myself.
Spotify tips: Spotify has been an early proponent and ally in terms of putting on for creators who are Asian and Asian-American and even half. It’s really fun to browse through the app and stumble upon people who look like me. On the podcast side, I’m on three podcasts that are all on Spotify — including Commit or Quit that we just launched since everyone’s binging TV shows, we decide if you should commit or quit a show after the first two episodes.
Artist recommendations: Joji and Rich Brian are just absolutely killing it. There’s some interesting people like Audrey Mika, mxmtoon, UMI, I think Conan Gray is awesome; it’s a really exciting time.
What’s next after AAPIHM 2020: I’m in the process of writing a new album slated for probably a June or July release.
What AAPIHM means to me: This is important for me because it’s time we normalize Asian American creators and the art that comes from our communities. I’m taking part in this for that kid out there that looks like me to show them that it’s possible.
Artists recommendations: Some artists to watch are my guy from Queens, Robin Dey, and across the pond I love what Joy Crookes and Nish are doing in the U.K. Of course, my homegirl Raja Kumari. I’m also rocking with Humeysha, Fateh Doe, Raveena, Krewella, Sid Sriram and Vincent Fable.