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88rising and the diversification of rap

ByAres Zerunyan

Feb 18, 2018

Back in late January, the Chinese government banned hip-hop culture and tattoos from being shown on TV. The government has kept an eye on the flourishing hip-hop culture in China, which has been snowballing. Hip-hop’s transcendence from a marginalised genre to global export makes this movement fascinating. Hip-hop as an export has of course not only made it to China, but its influence can also be seen in many other nations. What makes China such an exception is that this export is now finding its way back into America.

The mogul behind the movement finding its way to the states goes by the name Sean Miyashiro, the founder of 88rising. 88rising has been the company behind acts such as Higher Brothers, Jack Ma, Joji and Rich Brian. Miyashiro has successfully been able to occupy an emergent niche in American society, which has allowed for his brand of music to thrive. Many Asian-Americans have felt frustrated by the lack of cultural representation, especially in major industries such as film and music. Actors of Asian origin such as Chloe Bennet, for example, have spoken about how difficult it is to be cast in a lead role if you are of Asian heritage. Asian actors have often been shoehorned into roles that are confined to their ethnic background. 88rising has arrived and given Asian artists the chance to be in charge of how they want their heritage to be conveyed, as well as infinite artistic liberty. “We’re Asian as f**k!” Miyashiro proclaims.

As mentioned, Miyashiro has been a conduit of hip-hop for both the United States and Asia. One of 88rising’s crown jewels is the group Higher Brothers. They are perhaps the purest expression of Asian pride of all the acts that 88rising has cultivated. Higher Brothers have tenaciously demonstrated their passion for hip hop culture in their music, which has translated to unprecedented levels of fanfare in China. One of the biggest challenges for hip-hop artists in China is overcoming the firewall, which prevents artists from promoting themselves on all major social media platforms, as well as Google and YouTube. Nevertheless, Higher Brothers, with the help of 88rising, have already come out with several hits, which have been as popular in the United States as in China. Songs such as ‘Stephen Curry’, ‘Made In China’ and ‘Flo Rida’ have successfully crossed over with popular features such as Famous Dex and Ski Mask the Slump God. ‘Made In China’ really stands out as an anthem for what Higher Brothers have accomplished with 88rising.

Without a doubt their poster child has been Rich Brian, who recently released his debut studio album, Amen. At first glance, Rich Brian looks nothing like a rapper, he doesn’t even have a background in hip-hop. That is true, to an extent – he’s from Indonesia, not known for any particular hip-hop scene. Regardless, Rich Brian became a viral sensation with ‘Dat $tick’, which even got the seal of approval from Ghostface Killah. That seal of approval, of course, came in a clever campaign from 88rising. 88rising hosted a series of YouTube clips, where they got influential rappers to react to the videos of members such as Higher Brothers and Rich Brian. Brian’s success serves as a reminder to any aspiring rapper that your background is no longer a barrier if you want to make it in hip-hop.

Hip-hop has been travelling the globe since the 1980s, but the global demand has never been this high. With greater mainstream appeal, big corporations are now ready to endorse hip-hop artists. For many artists looking to make it in the hip-hop industry, the United States and United Kingdom are still the places to achieve the highest levels of mainstream success. For the countries that have adopted hip-hop and injected their own cultural influences into their music, 88rising opens the door for international diversity in mainstream hip-hop. Another mainstream hit, for example, has been Yung Lean from Sweden. He has been one of the most popular cloud-rap artists that grew at the same time as cloud-rap sensation Lil Peep. Cloud-rap became so popular in Russia that Russian rappers are now leading the SoundCloud cloud-rap scene. Drake’s inclusion of South African producer Black Coffee on More Life brought a lot of attention to the South African hip-hop scene.

Global hip-hop is reaching audiences around the world in a variety of ways. Hip-hop fans craving new and original content can look at what rappers around the world are doing. While commercialisation of this music can certainly harm the integrity of these musicians’ quality, providing artists from around the world with the same opportunity to spread their music is equally important. While hip-hop grew from a marginalised society, it demands inclusivity. 88rising have embodied this philosophy and realised one of the ultimate goals in the game of hip-hop.

Image: 88rising via. Wikimedia Commons

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