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Arts Culture Why 88rising Is The Future Of Music Labels

Why 88rising Is The Future Of Music Labels

Why 88rising Is The Future Of Music Labels
Photo: Courtesy of FB @88rising
By Julian Kim
August 15, 2019
Creative freedom, representation and normalisation—88rising is a revolution in music today

In 2015, Sean Miyashiro, on the roof of a parking garage in the Bronx, founded 88rising (formerly known as CXSHXNLY) and began quietly building it into the global brand it is today. The flexible company is an undeniable powerhouse in today's pop music scene and is described by founder Miyashiro as a platform for their artists to creatively express their individuality and respective cultures. More than that, the company is fulfilling Miyashiro’s dream of bridging the cultural gap between Eastern and Western media through a new generation of creators.

The Beginning

Boisterous and rowdy, Keith Ape is a hero in Seoul's underground hip-hop scene

It was Korean rapper Keith Ape’s viral hit It G Ma that first drew 88rising’s attention. The subsequent remixes featuring popular Western hip-hop artists like A$AP Ferg, Father and Waka Flocka Flame were organised by 88rising and became only a taste of what was to come from the company.

From there, Miyashiro made it his mission to sign the hottest artists emerging from Asia and to prove the brand’s initial success as anything but an anomaly. 88rising’s eccentric ensemble of talented artists and their ability to harness the often gimmicky and untamed power of viral hits differentiate themselves from other musical collectives. The company considers itself as more of a media creator and facillitator than a music label. The artists are encouraged to follow any creative direction while the 88rising brand connects them with markets that are often hemispheres apart.

It’s a cross-cultural relationship where the 88rising brand makes their mark in Asia and overseas while American artists are given the opportunity to expose their brand to the untapped and enormous Asian market. 88rising also serves as a beacon of empowerment to the newer generations with artists like Rich Brian and his success serving as a continental icon to upcoming Asian hip-hop hopefuls.

Rich Brian — Leader, Icon, Teenager

Photo: Courtesy of FB @iamrichbrian
Photo: Courtesy of FB @iamrichbrian

No one symbolises the wild and scrappy spirit of 88rising more than Rich Brian, or Brian Imanuel, an Indonesian native who rose to prominence microwaving bread and wearing a pink polo with a now-infamous fanny pack in his viral rap single Dat $tick. Learning English from watching Youtube videos, the Indonesian musician continues his meteoric rise as an Asian hip-hop artist with his clever lyricism and unique baritone.

Once criticised for his controversial former stage name, Imanuel has showcased a remarkable malleability and maturity when it comes to his style. The artist's recent music fearlessly explores his unique role in a landscape that has lacked Asian representation while showcasing a rare vulnerability when it comes to his status as the de facto ambassador of a continent and the 88rising movement. 

The former internet comedian has toured the US and played a track from his newest album, The Sailor, for Indonesian President Joko Widodo. As Imanuel continues to go from strength to strength, it can be easy to forget that the artist is still only 19. 

Moving Forward

Photo: Courtesy of @88rising
Photo: Courtesy of @88rising

88rising prides itself on offering a selection of creative talent that strays away from the mainstream. Artists like former internet sensation turned soulful R&B singer, Joji, is known for his minimalistic ambience and brooding lyrics while the Chengdu-born hip-hop quartet Higher Brothers celebrates their Chinese heritage through energetic trap.

The group has since added big names like Indonesian female songwriter-singer NIKI and their first non-Asian signing, African-American and Los Angeles Koreatown singer August 08. Miyashiro himself admits that while 88rising started as a company to primarily represent Asia, the company’s focus has shifted to represent immigrant culture as a whole.

88rising is defying expectations by establishing themselves as something entirely different from the endless tide of pop boy bands coming out of Asia. The brand seeks to normalise the presence of Asians in the hip-hop scene while redefining the genre—Rich Brian shouldn't just be celebrated because he's Indonesian, he should be celebrated for his immense talent. They’re a brand that’s not trying to appease the global audience but be accepted by them. With a festival on the cards and a sequel coming to their light-hearted collaborative album Head in the Clouds, 88rising isn’t stopping anytime soon; it's going to the top. 

For more on their tours and artists visit


Arts & Culture 88rising music hip hop pop artists Asian Joji Rich Brian


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