There is another talented individual out there embodying the essence of the East-meets-West cultural intersection. There are a ton of examples showing how East Asian pop culture has infused into Western society to form a thriving platform or art form. Hip-hop, in particular, has become an undeniably prime example of an East-meets-West amalgam. An Indonesian teenager has become a sensation within the industry – his new album has made quite the presence on the charts. A new subgenre known as ‘Trapime‘ has emerged, which uses elements from Japanese animation and trap beats as its basis. Even Adidas collaborated with Dragonball-Z for a new series of sneaker releases. Moreover, now there’s a video director/editor that’s by all rights killing it within his realm of work, backed by the multimedia management company 88rising.
[88Rising’s most prominent acts: Higher Brothers, Rich Brian, Joji & Keith Ape]
Anyone who’s browsed through new-school rapper interviews and music videos on YouTube has probably landed on a video from 88Rising. 88Rising has only been around for a few years, but its managed to cultivate a quick uprising for itself. The mass media company brings together acts from both East and West, giving them, music videos, interviews, a record label and what is virtually a whole marketing campaign to help them explode onto both US and East Asan markets. It is a multimedia marketing platform specializing in win-win situations for East and West acts via brilliant marketing strategies, hence its slogan ‘double happiness.’ One of its most effective ways of promoting itself (and those in its content) is its videos – precisely the people behind them.
[88 Rising: Double Happiness]
Within 88Rising’s team is a talented individual responsible for conjuring music videos for a growing number of artists: James Mao. You might not have heard of him, but if you are a hip-hop fan, then chances are he has probably played a hand in creating a music video from one of you are favorite artists. If you are massively into hip-hop, then there’s no doubt that you have seen some of his work. He co-directed the Joji’s visual EP ‘In Tongues,’ as well as directing music videos for a fair amount of other artists, including Trippie Redd, Higher Brothers, Ski Mask the Slump God, Rothstein, Supabwe and Salomon Faye.
[Still from Joji’s Visual EP ‘In Tongues’ – Directed by James Mao]
Mao’s signature style is what distinguishes his music videos from virtually any other in existence. Lo-fi visuals and vivid yet indistinct colors make up the main aesthetic of the majority of his work. There’s also a great deal of 3D-generated characters and object that play parts in his videos, which seem to come straight out of the late 90s/early 2000s era. Moreover, a general amalgamation of digital/internet aesthetic typically found within his videos – this style is rarely seen in commercial music videos, and will likely be what pushes James Mao’s career further into the mainstream. Within them Most of his work features these opaquely depicted 3D characters taking part in a video game-like activity, further complimenting his digitally retro, PlayStation 1-esque style. Most if not all of his videos will give you a sense of nostalgia particularly if you are a 90s baby. Striking imagery like dollar bills, emojis and general pop culture symbols that viewers can easily identify. , with a few East Asian highlights here and there. It is not a style you will commonly see within music videos and not something you would call ‘mainstream’ or ‘basic.’
[Still from Trippie Redd’s Hellboy Music Video – Directed by James Mao]
James Mao has also proven that visual effects are also a forte of his aside from directing. He is contributed FX to Snoop Dogg’s recent electronically-infused ‘Bow Down‘ track. Moreover, he has worked FX into Kehlani’s ‘Get Like,’ Pnb Rock’s ‘Notice Me,’ and Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘P’s and Q’s.’ Mao’s visual effects can also be seen on Kenneth Ning’s 2018 New York Fashion Week show. It is almost unbelievable to see East Asian talents playing a part within the US music industry in such a dominant way. With an already promising career and the backing of 88Rising, it would not be surprising to see James Mao go down as one of the greatest music video architects in history.