88Rising: Bridging The Gap Between American and Asian HipHop
“We’re Asian as fuck,” laughs Sean Miyashiro. As the founder of 88rising, the ex-Thump head and Bay Area native of Japanese and Korean descent has set his aim on promoting Asian cultures worldwide, primarily through music. The management and media production company’s core artists are hard-hitting rappers out to obliterate expectations set by hyper-polished K-pop stars.
There’s fast-rising Indonesian trap teen Rich Chigga, whose viral “Dat $tick” video used his unassuming appearance to subvert Asian nerd stereotypes and reveal a menacing flow in the process; Keith Ape, whose Korean-Japanese posse cut “It G Ma” garnered millions more views on its own than the A$AP Ferg-featuring remix used on “Atlanta”; and Higher Brothers, the Chinese rap group whose tough-talking bars are impossible to lose in translation. 88rising also recently started moving outside of hip-hop, teaming up with laid-back, lo-fi dance acts like singer joji and GODMODE-signed producer Yaeji for various projects, mostly highly stylized videos.
“A lot of people are wondering, ‘What is 88rising, exactly? Is it a YouTube channel? A management company? A record label?’’ Miyashiro says from behind large mirrored sunglasses. “It’s actually everything. Our general ethos is that we want to push this shit forward. It’s not like, ‘Hey, we’re trying to change people’s perceptions of Asians.’ We’re just doing it by being alive.”
Their approach seems to be working, too, with mainstream success starting to come. Over the past few months, Rich Chigga has scored features with Skrillex and Diplo, who just this week used Chigga to replace Justin Bieber on a new version of “Bankroll.” The 88rising crew also recently linked up with the esteemed party broadcasters Boiler Room, with more cross-genre collabs to come.
What Next For Asian HipHop
Lounging in the dripping-with-marble multipurpose room of his Upper East Side apartment building, Miyashiro recently spoke at press conference about Asian representation in hip-hop and beyond.Sean Miyashiro explains that he wanted to do something big for Asian culture and that’s when he linked up with VICE-Thump. Miyashiro thinks the time is now. Not just Asian people, but cross-cultural appreciation generally and recognizing what each ethnicity has to offer in terms of inspiration distinctive to its culture.
Their approach seems to be working, too, with mainstream success starting to come. Over the past few months, Rich Chigga has scored features with Skrillex and Diplo, who just this week used Chigga to replace Justin Bieber on a new version of “Bankroll.” The 88rising crew also recently linked up with the esteemed party broadcasters Boiler Room, with more cross-genre collabs to come. “There’s some fly Asian shit out there, but no one can tangibly give you an example,” Miyashiro says. “That’s insane, when you’re talking about fucking two billion people, and people in the West can’t be like, ‘That’s fucking dope.’
People in Asia are starting to really take notice of what they’re doing, in China and Korea and Japan, and they’re really appreciative of us bridging both continents. A lot of American artists that they grew up liking are collaborating with Asian artist to learn how to get over there. They don’t know how to get fans in the market or go there physically for a tour. Sean was recently with Migos, showing them some of the collaborations they had put together, and they were like enthusiastically impressed and wanted in on the action.
No Asian company or crew has been successful globally unless it was part of a large corporate company, like Psy or some shit like that—some gimmick. That didn’t last, and it was obviously because it was funny. In terms of real culture, there’s been no crew doing what they’re doing and now they possess the power to make this something that is tangible and will ultimately with stand time.
– credit pitchfork