Mere years ago, Sean Miyashiro sat in his car on the top floor of a parking lot in The Bronx, dreaming about a change in the creative culture. Being of Asian-American heritage, Miyashiro considered a world where the youth cultures of East and West would meet to create something new. That world would eventually come to be known as 88rising, the hip-hop label bridging artists of mainly Asian background with the music scene of the United States. Since its inception, 88rising has carefully crafted a stream of online marketing and streaming ploys to promote their artists. A chance online meeting with who would become the label’s biggest artist, Rich Brian, was the sparking of this online takeover.
88rising now has over two million subscribers on their YouTube channel and 600 million total views between its artists. However, the channel doesn’t just specialise in music videos. Here users can find anything from quirky cocktail recipes to Japanese-inspired karaoke performances from some of America’s biggest hip-hop acts. 88rising is for the youth by the youth, with all its members (including its creator) being well under 30 years old and acts such as Rich Brian, Niki, and Lexie Liu being only 19. However, the entire world – young or old – are coming to recognise the comparatively large impact this little label is having. What’s more is that the entire 88rising congregation will be coming to Australia this summer. If you didn’t have one before, 88rising is your new reason to get to Falls Festival at the end of the year. Here’s why.
I remember late one rainy summer’s night in 2014 I stumbled upon a YouTube channel called ‘DizastaMusic’. Despite the name, George Miller rarely used his influential channel for music and instead opted for an often-gross, always-hilarious take on modern comedy. That channel would evolve into TVFilthyFrank and would birth a series of lovable characters, countless viral videos, and even two full-length albums by the hilarious (albeit disgusting and distressed) Pink Guy. Even then, it was hard to see past Miller’s creative potential, comedic or otherwise. But his passion lay in music – and not the slapstick, parody rap he had been pumping out for years. Filthy Frank became Joji, leaving behind a world of internet notoriety in the hopes of mainstream fame.
Joji found that mainstream fame with 88rising. He states in an interview with Bloomberg: ‘I also started to realise that 88 is the bridge between Western and Asian entertainment – and I really wanted to be a part of that.’ Unbeknownst to the legions of disappointed Filthy Frank fans, George Miller could make real music. And he could sing, really well. The In Tongues EP dropped in November of last year and flawlessly displays Joji’s talent for melodic music; infusing modern trap beats with his soothing vocals to create a beautiful sound that is now distinctly his. The same reason why many of us loved the Panic! At the Discos’s and the Blink-182’s of the mid-2000’s is the same reason why I and millions of others love Joji: it creates a vibe of bittersweet melancholy that no other pop song can give us. To be especially dramatic, Ron Weasley might say ‘You’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it’.
Like Joji, Rich Brian (born Brian Imanuel), found fame fast on the internet with a number of funny videos. Brian found particular traction on the popular video-sharing site, Vine, which forced him to stick to clips of about 6 seconds. Brian was born in Indonesia and could barely speak English before his transition into hip-hop music. Just as the internet had given the young Indonesian his fame, it also gave him an opportunity to learn English through rappers like Childish Gambino and Tyler, The Creator. Having learned the language through rapping, Brian quickly sought to emulate his new heroes.
At only 16 years of age, the young musician released Dat $tick to YouTube under the moniker ‘Rich Chigga’. It was around this time that Brian came in to contact with 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro, who saw serious potential in the young Indonesian. Two years and countless tour dates later, Rich Brian has reached critical acclaim and he is the base upon which 88rising is built.
The Future is Bright
Rich Brian’s 2018 debut album, Amen, peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 – a feat long-established American artists struggle to achieve. Brian’s youth and heritage would traditionally discount him from a competitive music industry, however, Miyashiro and the team at 88rising are not for the traditional route. Although unusual, their methods are evidently effective. Only just enjoying his 19th birthday, the future is limitless for Rich Brian and his crew.
Joji and Rich Brian are only two of a conglomerate of successful acts that 88rising has been promoting in recent years. Soul/RnB singer Niki offers soft yet raspy vocals that would challenge any of today’s Western pop stars, while Korean-born Keith Ape and Chinese-born Higher Brothers rap intermittently between their native tongue and English without effort. Miyashiro’s knowledge of the East and West has come to fruition through his label. But it is the internet that is the binding device for these cultures.
As globalism continues to increase and China and the East continue to climb the economic ladder, both cultures will inevitably collide. If the creative end result is anything like what 88rising has to offer, then I say that the future is bright. I’ll see you at Falls for an undoubtedly killer set on behalf of these future megastars.
Check out dates, tickets, and prices for Falls Festival.
Listen to 88rising’s debut collaborative effort, Head In The Clouds.