The Asian hip-hop culture goes back to the 1980s, when the American idea of street culture started spreading mainly in Philippines and Japan. After the rise of popularity of Asian-American artists such as Fresh Kid Ice in the US, rapping and hip-hop inspired music production began to gain traction in more and more Asian countries.
It has only recently become a consistent movement in the mainstream music industry, and in part this is thanks to 88rising. The new generation of Asian rappers and singers promoted by the musical collective has not only begun to gain recognition among global audience, but also has been cosigned by leading American rappers in the game such as Migos or Lil Yachty.
Sean Miyashiro – who founded 88rising – explained to i-D that he started the company because he felt frustrated by the lack of a platform where Asian artists could promote themselves in an efficient way. “I started manifesting it when I saw more Asian people creating damn good shit,” he said. “It dawned on me that we needed a home, somewhere that would celebrate what we do. I realised that nobody was going to do it for us, so I said, fuck it, why not me? Why not now?”, he said. 88rising is not only a record label, but also a marketing company, with a quest to show the potential of young Asian talents.
The company has recently teamed up with Red Bull to create Asia Rising – The Next Generation of Hip Hop, a documentary that aims to show this cultural crossover. The documentary premieres on March 29, 7 AM EST on Red Bull TV and the Red Bull YouTube Channel.
Speaking to Forbes, Awich, a Japanese rapper who started her career before contemporary Asian hip-hop culture blew up across the world, pointed out that the 88rising movement has triggered a new era. “I feel like their presence is really important and I’m really appreciative of that”, she said and emphasising that the rise of recognition of Asian artists is a real ‘game-changer’.
Meet the 88rising artists who have paved a way for the next generations of Asian creatives
Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers joined 88rising in 2016. The group is often compared to Migos due to the hedonistic nature of their lyrics, along with an extravagant image and ad-lib focused beats. In their songs, they combine Mandarin, Sichuanese and English language and often pay tribute to their culture in ‘Made in China’ or ‘WeChat’. Their manager Sean Miyashiro called the release of their debut album ‘Five Stars’ a “pivotal moment in Asian music history”.
Joji (George Miller, aka. Filthy Frank) – a half-Japanese half-Australian former YouTube star – significantly impacted popular culture before even starting his musical career; he pioneered the Harlem Shake dance craze. His debut album ‘Ballads 1’ offers something completely different from what his previous internet persona represented. Joji serves beautiful and delicate tracks; ultimate epitome of melancholy. His style of ‘mumble-singing’ gives the whole record a chilled yet hypnotising vibe. Joji also works with other 88rising artists on group singles such as ‘Midsummer Madness’.
Rich Brian (previously known as Rich Chigga) is an Indonesian rapper who taught himself English by watching YouTube videos and listening to American rap. Now, he spits only in English. The artist gained recognition in 2016 after releasing his first single ‘Dat $tick”. Rich Brian’s deep voice and incredibly smooth flow make his tunes like ‘Gospel’ firm and powerful. He ‘s also collaborated with Young Thug, Quavo, Diplo and 21 Savage.
Chinese artist Lexie Liu came forth in two reality competitions: Korea’s ‘K-Pop’ and ‘the Rap of China’. Her enchanting voice gives her recent releases a laidback feel, sitting somewhere between pop and rap.
Keith Ape is a South Korean trap icon. His pulsing and dark sound is captivating and entrancing. He raps in both English and Korean, with a stylistic flair that brings JPEGMAFIA to mind.
Niki is an Indonesian singer and a music producer. Her sound is heavily influenced by 90s R&B, and her songs are the most upbeat and joyful from all of the 88rising team members.