east meets west: rich chigga, wu-tang, and 88rising

Long gone are the days when the most prevalent mention of Asian culture was in Wu-Tang Clan’s Kung-Fu’d up boom bap rap in the golden age of Hip-Hop. Today, after decades of assimilation of Hip-Hop culture here in America and in the Far East, an online media company out of the Bay Area is setting out to showcase raw rap talent from Asia to the whole world.

In an interview with Forbes, Sean Miyashiro, the founder of 88rising, says “But the big thing for us is that there are four billion Asian people. There are two billion millennials between 16-34. They’ve been waiting for a media brand that speaks to their taste, but also celebrates and communicates that to people outside of Asia”.

With a very ambitious plan to communicate Asian culture, 88rising is already racking up millions of views on their Youtube channel on songs from artists like Rich Chigga from Indonesia, Higher Brothers from China, and Japanese-American online facet Joji, also known as Filthy Frank. And unlike the engineered and corporately controlled K-pop and K-Hip-Hop artists of today, 88rising not only showcases great Asian artists, but they provide us with new, refreshing art that doesn’t lack substance and is true to the artist that performs it. One of my personal favorites “Made In China” by Higher Brothers featuring Famous Dex provides some commentary on the world’s reliance on Chinese goods and goes hard all the same. When I first watched their videos I was excited to see them embrace the Hip-Hop culture and add their own Chengdu flavor to it, instead of talking about trap houses and all the subject matter you would find in true trap music from Atlanta, and from which their inspiration may come from.

In a fortunate sequence of events, after a reaction video to Rich Chiggas “Dat Stick," Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah was featured on the remix of the same song and showed the power of the platform 88rising has given to young artists. Even extending as far as creating a series of videos in which popular American rappers react to the diverse styles in 88rising, which is seemingly taken well by most if not all of the reactors.

Inspiring the pioneers and legends in the rap game as well as current artists solely for being themselves is what 88rising has been doing since it's inception and what draws people to their YouTube channel every day. 88rising uses every method in the modern world to market their brand, create a fan base, and stay fresh and exciting at the same time, providing us with quality entertainment from cultures we would other-wise skip over when looking for rap music. Where will 88rising go from here? No one really knows, but at their current rat, they could become somewhat of a new-age record label, based in the internet and around the world and specializing in more than just Asian rappers. Maybe 88rising could inspire a similar media platform for Latinos or different sub-cultures and usher in a de-corporatization (If that's even a word) of rap music.

Now, aside from all the business stuff and corporate record labels coming to a slow end, there really is a need for something like 88rising. There has been some discord amongst Asian entertainers and Asian people caused by the misrepresentation of Asian culture and a lack of Asian talent in Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a whole. With Scarlett Johansson being casted as the main lead in the live action adaptation of Ghost in the shell, people feel there is not enough role models for young Asian-Americans to look up to aside from the stereotypical kung-fu master or fighter of some kind in the movies, and even that is getting taken away. 88rising let's young kids know that they can be anything they want to be even if tv or movies don't show that. Young kids get inspired and feel as if they could be the ones to make a song with Wu-tang members and really be embraced as an artist or as a person and not as a romanticized ideal of what a Asian should be like. 88rising breaks down barriers and builds bridged upon the rubble, creating a path for Asian rappers to enter and ultimately influence the hip-hop world for good. ✉

article by: javier mencia



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