88Rising : Bridging East & West Pop Culture

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I love 88rising. A few months back I recently found their hit single on the new album ‘Head in The Clouds’ called ‘Midsummer Madness’. I didn’t like it at first but as I was repeating the song over and over again, it has immediately became my number one summer anthem last year. I treated 88rising like any other hip hop collective at that time (other names like The Internet and Brockhampton) but I noticed at the bridge of Midsummer Madness the lyrics was in foreign asian language possibly thai or taiwanesse so I thought ‘whoa, what a diverse hip hop group this is’. I didn’t know then that 88rising consists of all Asian people.

That interesting fact in my opinion is actually what makes 88rising artists unique compared to other hip hop stars famous in America. As Sean Miyashiro (the founder of 88rising) said “The huge differentiation for us is: Dude, we’re f*king obviously Asian”. So from there we’re going to talk about 88rising from 2 point of views. First, how 88rising has (literally) rose as one of the fresh-est finds in hip hop and second how they successfully create a new stereotype for Asian culture.

The founder of 88rising Sean Miyashiro worked in VICE’s electronic music channel and was a manager of few artists before he started 88rising. Sean in my opinion is the right guy to start all this. Due to his previous career path, he is used to bringing people together and finding the right connection to create cool things. Plus, he’s f*king asian. He has that desire to make Asian culture popular in the eyes of Americans. All he needed was a bunch of cool Asian dudes possibly musicians to work his magic on. Magically, he found Rich Brian who was a 19 year-old Indonesian rapper with sick low-chord voice and catchy tunes, Joji who was a famous youtube star with cool heart-felt songs, and Kris Wu who was namely the Hip-hop king of China. But it didn’t stop then. Sean’s magic also involved exposing these asian artist to the eyes of Hip-hop all stars like Ghostface Killah, Travis Scott, 21 Savage, and A$AP Ferg and make the two sides collaborate. This process kind of ‘legitimize’ the asian artists to be labeled as hip-hop artists. Because no matter what, Hip-hop has always been linked with African-american culture or ‘ghetto’ culture. That’s why Hip-hop audience may question it first before they decide whether they like the music or not, the main thing is right now Rich Brian, Joji, Niki, Higher Brothers and other 88rising crews get to perform on the same stage as Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, and other big names. The rise of these new hip-hop voice definitely brought a fresh air to the music industry.

Miyashiro’s big goal for 88rising was not just to create a label for Asian artists but also to make a media platform where they can showcase the lives and culture of cool Asian millenials. If we look at the trends of Asian teenagers around us (including me and you) we have always linked coolness to western culture. Being cool meant you can speak fluent english, you listen to western songs, you watch western movies, you buy western streetwears, etc. The cool stereotype has always belonged to Americans, African-American, or even European culture. On the other hand, nerdy, ambitious, and not-fun stereotype belonged to us Asians. But now, well I personally think Asian millenials succeeded in finding coolness in their own culture. This coolness was brought up by music cultures such as K-Pop or J-Pop and our evolving love for our own heritage. 2018 had been a great year for making Asian culture more widely known, with movies like Crazy Rich Asians, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (the main actress is Asian) and artists like Rich Brian, Joji,and Niki.

Miyashiro wants to enhance that by incorporating the already-cool American personalities with a touch of Eastern flavor. For example bringing this as-asian-as-you-can-possibly-imagine guy Rich Brian with his pink polo and fanny pack in ¬Dat Stick MV which is a familiar style for ‘koko-koko Cina’ and introduce him as a worldwide known professional rapper, or making cooking tutorial videos on how to cook Asian meals for a Miami Pool Party. Things like these create a new stereotype on Asian people that we can be cool too.

Of course, 88rising still got a long way to go and (hopefully) bright future ahead of them. I hope 88rising will continue doing what they do and succeed as a platform for Asian artists to be heard worldwide because if they do it right, I’m pretty sure they will become very very huge.

by : B.V.

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