Traveling is a different experience every time, with a familiar set of questions. When do you start your trip? What do you bring? Where do you go? What do you eat? What do you see? Who do you travel with? I always have another question to answer: what am I going to listen to?

Whether it's Young Thug, Kanye West, or Odd Future, hip-hop has always been my most trusted travel companion. I find it hard to vibe with other travelers in general, especially in countries where I don’t speak the language. But the one thing that always bridged the gap was a communal love for this sound and culture, and the music that results when a foreign country tries its hand at hip-hop.

In Chiang Mai, I asked locals where I could hear “rap music”—they all pointed to one bar. It was nearly empty, but there were enough hip-hop heads present to warrant a few beers. It was a stark contrast to the “Compton to Seoul” show I attended in Korea, which featured DJ Yella from NWA, Trinidad James, Twista, Royce da 5’9, Sonny Digital, and a bunch of big Korean artists. 

Different cities. Different countries. Different cultures. Different continents. No matter where I went, a different kind of hip-hop existed. I knew the artists had stories, and music was the way they shared. 

Last year in East Asia I interviewed artists, explored clubs, and kicked it with local music lovers. The State of Hip-Hop is a video series that chronicles those encounters, those sounds, and those sights. Starting with China and moving each day through Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, we’ll spend this week hearing the sounds and flows coming from the other side of the world.

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