In recent years, the influence of hip-hop and R&B has made its way to all corners of the globe. It would be an understatement to say that rock music has been dethroned. The 2017 U.S. Music Year-End Report released by Nielsen revealed that hip-hop and R&B became the most consumed genres. One group that has taken advantage of hip-hop and R&B’s advancement has been 88rising, a mass media company that has all its bases covered, specializing in video production, marketing, and releasing music through its record label.
Over the course of a few years, 88rising has already opened offices in Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Shanghai. The company now employs 45 people and is continuously adding to its roster. When asked in an interview with online publication Mass Appeal how he would describe his company, Sean Miyashiro said he would describe it as an imaginary factory and revealed that he drew inspiration from Walt Disney and did not limit himself. “If you can dream it, you can do it” is one of the quotes attributed to Walt Disney and Miyashiro is definitely making the impossible into the achievable. Where once the entry of Asian Americans and different nationalities of Asians would have elicited a raised eyebrow, the timing is ripe for the arrival of 88rising to the entertainment industry.
With their top tier hype crew, 88rising is changing the culture, creating a new form of belonging within today’s generation, much like how the Wu-tang Clan united people from all cultures in the 80s and 90s. From its inception, Wu Tang clan borrowed heavily from martial arts (Wu Tang is the name of a sword fighting style in martial arts) and emphasized the brotherhood of the group, much like 88rising exports not just cultural influences from their respective native countries through its clan of artists, but also the concept of unity and fraternity. 88rising is a love child, an ode to what is now a revolutionary mission by founders Sean Miyashiro and Jaeson MaSean to make way for Asians’ representation and diversify the genre of hip-hop, taking notes from the revolutionary contributions from the Wu-Tang Clan that merged East Asin and African American culture. You might say that 88rising is Wu-Tang Clan incarnate.
Others have decided to share in the vision of the successfully burgeoning company. WPP, a global advertising agency, made a $4.5 million investment in 88Rising, which has allowed 88rising to further their mission across different mediums. They are taking a page from founding Wu Tang Clan, who did not limit themselves to the arena of rapping. Founding member RZa, who was heavily influenced by kung fu movies growing up, scored films. The first film he scored was Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. It opened up the door for RZA, who went on to score Kill Bill: Volume 1, Blade: Trinity, The Man with the Iron Fists, Freedom Writers, and the Mindscape of Alam Moore. Just as the Wu Tang Clan delved into other forms of traditional media, 88rising has capitalized on the ease and accessibility of social media tools, maintaining an active presence on Twitter where news on artists and their music videos are frequently posted.
In recent years, there has been a departure from artists signing on and relying on the big labels. Music platforms like Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp have given rise to the independent artist movement, allowing artists to congregate as collectives and distribute their product without strings attached to their creativity. The globalization of hip hop has made way for 88rising to market not just to their fellow American audience but to countries that are seeing an uptick in hip hop consumption like China, Japan, and South Korea.
The musical cross-section of East Asia and West collides in the global outreach of 88rising. 19-year-old Lexie Liu is a prime example of what happens when the youngest crop of millennials has exposure to hip hop and R&B, genres that have been exported outside of its voracious beginnings in the United States. Out comes an unexpected force of flow. Lexie is popular in her native China but with her recent signing to 88rising, her sound is going to transcend language barriers and permeate the American hip hop and R&B bubble. Earlier this summer, her single ‘Like a Mercedes’ was released by 88rising along with a futuristic styled video that arrests the senses.
88rising is turning hip hop and R&B on its head and breathing life back into genres that have saturated the U.S. market and grown stale in the process. Another voice that is lending to this music revolution is another 19-year-old, Indonesian singer and songwriter NIKI who has already released an EP, Zephyr, underneath the 88rising name. 88Rising also snapped up fellow Indonesian artist Brian Rich, formerly known as Rich Chigga, that began his foray into the wider world of entertainment through Snapchat and Youtube. Rich Brian got the attention of Ghost Face Killa, who joined him and Pouya on his hit single ‘Dat $tick.’
What started as time spent on Interweb comedy turned into a full-fledged career of lyric mastery and snappy music videos, of which 88rising is adept at releasing to promote their artists.
88rising’s knack of signing artists who have mass appeal for their visual artistry as much as their music delivery sets them apart from other record labels. The sharp tone they have set for the company and how they carry themselves is unmatched in energy. 88rising is not just a media company. These modern rock stars operate not as a single entity, but as a family through a multitude of individual collaborations. 88Rsing has partnered with Chris-Wu, Trippe Red, Blockboy Jb, Famous Dex, Ghostface Killah, Yaeji, and the Sudanese rapper J.Mag. With these collaborations, 88Rising has created ambitious projects. 88rising is putting themselves at the forefront by giving emerging artists a platform and the opportunity for different groups of people to understand one another. 88rising is transforming dreams into goals, artfully handpicking individuals from around the globe to explore the best of what East Asia has to offer and build upon its family of artists.
Included in the fold are Joji, the Higher Brothers and the Higher Sister Lana Larkin, Keith Ape, and August 08. 88Rising means “double happiness” and happiness can’t work without the main crew. 88rising has been around since July of 2015 and continues to grow. With growth and success, however, comes criticism. 88rising has been accused of cultural appropriation of black culture and turning away from the core mission of having Asian artists represented in hip-hop, but the company strives to be a collective of people that want to change minds and introduce the music world to what else is out there in hip-hop. 88rising is not going away anytime soon. They are evolving and are poised to make waves with the help of new blood.
88rising is a beacon in today’s generation, advertising a lifestyle that their targeted audience can relate to. In the 80s and 90s, music videos propelled artists into the mainstream consciousness. MTV and VH1 set aside hours of time to broadcast these music videos. Now, these two channels have resigned themselves to reality tv programming. 88rising has championed the return of the music video with vivid imagery and a cast of characters. 88rising’s Joji has some of the most eye-catching, eye-popping videos. ‘WANTED U’ and ‘Head in the Clouds’ embodies that creative, 80s aesthetic. ‘Wanted U’ in particular can be found on Joji’s debut album from 88rising, Ballads 1, which dropped on October 31st, 2018, loaded with guest appearances from the likes of RLGRIME, Thundercat, Clams Casino, and Ryans Hemsworth to name a few. Joji, born George Miller, got his start much like Rich Brian, creating the Youtube personality Filthy Frank in which he uploaded comedy sketches to his channel. Now, he is helping 88rising carry its brand of music and entertainment around the world.
The roadmap to success is paved with new endeavors and 88rising is no stranger to taking on new projects and pushing its artists. Recently, 88Rising put on its own music and arts festival in La State Historic Park on September 22, 2018. Artists on the bill included the usual label suspects like Rich Brian and Joji, but also hosted up and coming artists Zion. T and LAFF TRAX. It celebrated the merger of East and West, resulting in an exciting fusion of talents across the music spectrum. 88 Rising’s artists are currently on tour, taking its 88 Degrees and Rising tour from the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, BC, Canada to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. For future dates and more information, visit the 88rising website.
Track the rise of 88rising at the following socials: