Asian rappers add diversity to the music industry

March 13, 2018 — by Jayne Zhou

When Indonesian rapper “Rich Brian” released his first single, “Dat $tick” in 2015, he puzzled many with the comedic hip-hop hit. But it was clear he had an undeniable talent for wordplay and production. His self-released music video racked up over 80 million views.

Shortly after his sudden popularity, he was signed by record label 88rising.

Though this seems like the story for any up-and-coming artist, Rich Brian’s success as an Asian stands out in the music industry, especially in the rap genre.

He credits some of his success to the label he is signed with, 88rising.

88rising is a primarily Asian company whose focus is promoting Asian cultures worldwide, primarily through music.

The founder, Sean Miyashiro, is a Bay Area native of Japanese and Korean descent. According to Pitchfork, the management and media production company’s core artists are hard-hitting rappers out to obliterate expectations set by “hyper-polished K-pop stars.”

88rising has signed and helped several up and coming Asian artists enter the mainstream. Along with Rich Brian, the company’s clients include, Joji, the Higher Brothers, Keith Ape and more. There are several more Asian artists who aren’t signed with 88rising such as Kris Wu, George “G” Yamazawa, Dumbfoundead and Jin.

These Asian artists are changing the industry with the integration of their own culture into their music.

“It’s nice that instead of this generic mainstream rap all the time, we are able to hear like a new style that will definitely become more trendy later,” sophomore Alyssa Pantaleeva said after watching their show in San Francisco on Feb. 7, the second stop on the 88rising tour.

This “new style” of hip hop that these artists are introducing often incorporates their own language in it. For example, The Higher Brothers often rap in Chinese to set themselves apart from the popular “mumble rappers.”

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Miyashiro said, “We are clearly filling a void, which is a pan-Asian, East-meets-West approach. I think we’re doing it in a very creative and cool way.”

Indeed, they are incorporating and integrating Western artists with their own Asian artists. For example, Rich Brian, who is from Indonesia, hadn’t even been to America before at the time the song was produced, Oct. 2016, but had the opportunity to collaborate with Ghostface Killah.

He continues to collaborate with several Western, mainstream artists like 21 Savage and Trippie Redd.

The number of Asians in the hip-hop/rap industry is only growing and it isn’t nearing an end anytime soon.

“[Asian presence] is long overdue because the fact is, most ethnicities are going like something Asian, whether it’s Asian cuisine, a pop star, a movie,” Miyashiro told Forbes. “There’s a lot of influence going back and forth, especially in entertainment. The world has been waiting for a company like us to deliver it. Yeah it’s needed, but who’s going to have the DNA and the creativity to keep it?”


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