The Asian hip-hop scene only recently became a consistent movement in mainstream music, and we owe it to 88rising. 88rising is an American music label company that has been making a name for itself for giving countless Asian artists a platform, and the label has helped Asian artists reach western audiences at a rapidly growing rate. Founder Sean Miyashiro describes 88rising as a “hybrid management, record label, video production and marketing company.” They had their first ever group tour in Toronto last year, on September 30, featuring Rich Brian, Higher Brothers, Joji, Keith Ape, KOHH, Niki, August 08 and Don Krez at Echo Beach; the show was a huge success.
Red Bull and 88rising have teamed up to create a documentary film featuring rappers from all over Asia: Rich Brian, Awich, Higher Brothers, Suboi, Keith Ape, and more. It premiered on March 29 on both Red Bull TV and the Red Bull YouTube Channel. This documentary work explores the rapid success of Asian hip hop artists over the past 3 years while covering themes such as each artists’ background, their inspirations and their reception in both the east and the west and so on.
Chris Heinrich, Producer told Phoebes, “I was fortunate to enough to be a part of this project from the initial conversations and see if grow into the feature documentary that it is today. Working internally for 88rising as their Executive Producer and producing this documentary has provided me with the opportunity to witness what this story aims to showcase first hand with the growth of our artists and exposure to artists like Suboi, Awich and Jin Dogg. This documentary is just a preview of the art and creativity that these (showcased) and other defining cultures are now getting the opportunity to share on a world stage that is the internet”.
Here are the Japanese 88 rising artists who makes appearances in Asia Rising: The Next Generation of Hip Hop’ have paved a way for the Asian artists.
George Mille, better known by his stage name Joji and formerly by his YouTube username Filthy Frank, is a half-Japanese half-Australian singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and former Internet personality and comedian. He had a profound impact on popular culture even before starting his musical career, responsible for creating many memes. He is the pioneer of the Harlem Shake dance craze and his character has been referred to as “the father of alt-comedy”. His show—The Filthy Frank Show, featured extreme challenges and ukulele performances, which has been hailed as “the epitome of odd”. With most of the main characters played by Miller, the show created a cult following online and established him as an internet celebrity.
In December 2017, Miller stated that he has retired the YouTube channel to focus on his music career under the name Joji. His debut album, Ballads 1 reached number 1 on Billboard’s top R&B and hip-hop chart in November 2018 and he became the first Asian-born artist to do so. The album consists of delicate and melancholic tracks that are entirely different his previous internet persona, Filthy Frank. His music style has been described as a mix between R&B and trip hop.
Awich is a rapper from Okinawa, Japan. Growing up near the American base, in Okinawa, her love for poetry and rap sprouted when she picked up an album with her cousin at a record shop and listened to a song by Tupac, All Eyes On Me. She started writing her own rhythms and began rapping when she was 13, and then a short year later, at the age of 14, she was featured on an album called “Orion’s Belt” that showcased diverse rappers.
In 2006, she released her debut album, Asia Wish Child which her stage name derives from. She moved to Atlanta, where she married a native New Yorker and had her first child Toyomi, who is also known by her rapper name, Yomi Jah. After graduating from university with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship, her husband was shot dead, forcing her to return home with her little daughter. She reevaluated the meaning of love, life and forgiveness through her healing process in Okinawa which has a significant impact to her music. Her song Ashes, which features her daughter Yomi Jah, is based on their experience of dispersing her husband’s ashes in a remote island in Okinawa, her husband’s wish. Awich explores the hardship of relationship and the healing process she and her daughter experienced. Her captivating deep vocals in Japanese and English create a unique rap style. She is vocal about female sexuality which has empowered many women.
The third generation Korean-Japanese rapper, Jin Dogg was born in Ikuno in Osaka Prefecture, the largest Korean neighborhood in Japan. Being exposed to right-wing anti Korean protests and hate speech from young age, and experiencing prejudices from surrounding Japanese, he moved with his single mother multiple times to different parts of Osaka in his childhood. Moving to Seoul in Korea at the age of 10, he attended Japanese school where he also experienced racism from Korean locals which lead to him to question his own identity. He moved to Australia during his teenage years where he discovered free style rap, and his experience living in multiple countries led to him becoming fluent in three languages.
His music style is influenced by rappers like BONES, one of the most influential artists in the internet’s underground hip-hop scene, and the prejudices he experienced from young age has a significant impact on his music full of rage.