Founded in 2015 by Sean Miyashiro and Jaeson Ma initially under the name CXSHXNLY (cash only), music collective 88rising has been helping to carve out a path for Asian artists in Hip Hop. After hearing South Korean rapper Keith Ape’s trappy and bombastic anthem ‘It G Ma’ in 2015, Miyashiro was enthused and coordinated a remix of the song featuring U.S rappers Wacka Flocka Flame, A$AP Ferg, and Father.
The remix, premiered by Complex, received over 18 million views on YouTube and represented the label’s first breakthrough in its constantly upward-moving trajectory. In 2016, 88rising launched its own YouTube channel, collaborating with artists such as Joji, Rich Brian, and Dumbfounded.
Although many 88rising artists are now eminently recognizable, they are only so through the journey of growth they’ve experienced with the music company. 88 Rising focuses much of its energy on promoting and growing lesser-known artists with high potential, a strategy that has proven a lucrative endeavour for both the label and the artists themselves.
By 2017, the company boasted offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Shanghai and now has over 70 employees. However, 88rising’s mission holds a higher purpose than mere commercial success. The primary aim is to increase the visibility of Asian voices in Hip Hop and mainstream culture more generally through highlighting musical talent amongst the Asian diaspora. Speaking on this side of the business, Miyashiro has stated that 88 Rising can help Asians to feel less “inferior” within Western Mainstream culture; “It’s just so fun for me, as an Asian, to see an Asian voice being celebrated.”
While Hip Hop and its surrounding culture are a big focus of the label, it works with a diverse range of artists. From female Indonesian singer NIKI’s eclectic blend of pop synths and trap bass to Japanese-born Joji’s dark, brooding lo-fi ballads, 88 Rising focuses on promoting artists with a fresh, unique, and pathbreaking sound. Since 2018, the collective has held a music festival every year, the ‘Head in the Clouds Festival’, where it showcases its artists as well as others not signed to its label. At this year’s Coachella, 88 Rising took over the festival’s main stage with performances from artists such as NIKI, Jackson Wang, Rich Brian, and more.
The collective’s events serve to further its goal of celebrating Asian representation across different cultures. As Miyashiro emphasizes, ‘when I go to an 88 Rising show, I’m seeing a reflection of myself not only up on stage but also in those giant crowds of Asian faces’. In December 2020, 88 Rising partnered with radio station SiriusXM to launch the first-ever all-Asian multi-genre radio station available nationwide in the U.S, while last year it was also tasked by Marvel to produce the soundtrack for its first-ever Asian-led film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. 88 Rising is likely to continue to grow its creative output over the coming years, breaking down barriers for marginalized voices in the process.