SKYLER GALLARZAN WRITES- From Iron Man to Spiderman, Marvel Studios has produced some of the most prominent superhero films of any movie franchise in this last decade. And as of recently, paved the way for inclusion and representation of various communities. As Marvel’s Black Panther and its accompanying album, The Black Panther Album, have become pinnacles of black artistry and empowerment, the recently released Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings and its recently released album of the same name as the movie have become pinnacles of Asian artistry.
The Black Panther album, curated by renowned rapper Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, projected the power of black identity, which aligns with the plot of Black Panther itself, as well as with Kendrick Lamar’s lyricism. The artists that make up the album are all Black rappers and singers, the lyrics drive forward the emphasis on Black empowerment. In a very similar manner, Shang-Chi expresses the same sense of empowerment and tenacity in its efforts to represent the Asian community.
Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings, The Album is led by the iconic Asian music group 88Rising. The group defines itself as an American mass media company founded in 2015 by Sean Miyashiro, described as a “hybrid management, record label, video production and marketing company.” 88Rising’s growth in popularity is especially popular with Asian Americans.
The album in itself exemplifies Asian power, Asian elegance, and Asian swagger. Indonesian singer NIKI makes her name known in the iconic song “Every Summertime” with its easygoing, freeing melody, but the Shang-Chi album goes beyond this one catchy song. In tracks like “Lazy Susan” featuring 21 Savage, Rich Brian, Warren Hue, and Ma Si Wei, the hip hop style brings out the swagger and collaboration of Asian rappers while also implementing the Chinese language into the verses and lyricism. Ma Si Wei dives right in with Mandarin verses served in a quickly paced, high fashioned manner.
In addition, Shang Chi brings us other Asian artists, besides big name Asian musicians in 88Rising. In “Nomad”, performed by Zion T. and Gen Hoshino, the song is produced with a pop-like sound alongside echoey lyrics, both in Mandarin and English. DPR LIVE, DPR Ian, Mark Tuan, BIB all artists of Asian descent- have made their way onto the album. Even entirely new artists are on the album, such as Adawa and Shayiting EL, as they have found their name on the album with big name artists.
Cultural commemoration through music, language and the representation of native artists plays a huge role in embracing and celebrating diverse communities. We saw this with the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians, which brought multilingual music to light, from the opening with the Chinese 1920’s swing music of Grace Yang’s “Wo Yao Ni De Ai”, to Mandarin altered musical hits like “200 Du” (emulating the same melody as Madonna’s Material Girl) and a Mandarin version of Coldplay’s “Yellow. ” Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings prominently employs Asian and Asian American artists on its album- another means of empowerment. All of these productions are important markers on the pathway to fuller Asian representation and cultural empowerment on the world cinema scene.