Keith Ape

It’s over. The language of music from the new century will not be English. And the end of this Imperialism will come hand in hand with initiatives like 88rising, the collective, record label and agency that has managed to position itself in the worldwide scene with a bunch of Asian artists. Hip-hop in Chinese, Asian R&B crooners… 88rising hasn’t come to play.

The world is changing. Suddenly, the most listened to artists on streaming platforms don’t sing in English, but in Spanish. And, although we’re not able to name more than five Chinese movies from the last ten years, it turns out that the film industry from this country is already at a similar level, business-wise, to the one in Hollywood. In other words: the United States can already say goodbye to their hegemony in terms of culture because there is a growing interest in what’s happening outside the borders.

And, just so we make it clear, what’s surprising here isn’t the fact that there’s an interest in the native culture of faraway lands. Although that’s one factor. What’s truly surprising is that culture is beginning to become global, and it just so turns out that there are African kids that could be making the best house music in the planet and that nobody can deny that hip-hop is now practised by all kinds of people. In all languages. This is proven, obviously, by the rise of 88rising (sometimes represented as 88⬆).

Rich Brian

Here’s the complicated part: What exactly is 88rising? A record label? A management company? A YouTube channel? Well, it’s all of that, at the same time, because that’s just how the music business works in the 21st-century. Or, at least, that is how this business that was founded in 2015 under the name of CXSHXNLY by Sean Miyashiro and Jaeson Ma works. The latter would soon stay in the background, leaving Miyashiro to be the frontman of this company that has served as a launchpad for artists like Rich Chigga (now known as Rich Brian), Keith Ape, Higher Brothers or Joji. And they’ve also created strategic alliances with giants like Ghostface Killah, Yaeji, 21 Savage, XXXTentacion or Ski Mask. As well as Boiler Room.

The idea of 88rising is simple but innovative: to serve as a promotion for a whole ensemble of Asian artists that started with hip-hop but they’ve been branching out to other urban styles and even R&B. An alternative option that is much more authentic compared to the reign of K-pop that is purely a study of marketing, colourful packaging and invasive business tactics. Completely opposite to Miyashiro’s strategy, who’s determined to offer a more realistic side to Asian music, which he believes can directly attack the Yankee industry.

Higher Brothers

After all, Miyashiro is a strategy specialist and has excellent knowledge of the North American industry. His first project in the American market was precisely the launch of Thump, a content platform by VICE that knew how to define the outlines of the vitalization of our current online world. But, why would you invest that much time into something you’re not passionate about, no matter how successful it is, when you could be working on launching something that you truly believe in? There’s no doubt that, through 88rising, Sean Miyashiro has managed to put in the international scene a whole group of names that are recurrent in the charts and festival line-ups.

Because, if you stop and think about it, knowing how hard it can be to understand certain rappers with their closed American accents, why wouldn’t you become a fan of another kind of hip-hop music that boasts amazing phrases in Cantonese?