Straight outta… China? The young Asian artists bucking hip-hop trends

Indonesian-born Rich Chigga, whose viral hit “Dat $tick” has racked up more than 50 million views online, is usually the principal — in addition to some say unlikely — face of a fresh generation of edgy, young Asian hip-hop acts, whose growing popularity among US audiences is usually helping to subvert Asian music stereotypes.

Born Brian Imanuel, 17-year-old Rich Chigga is usually signed to 88 Rising, a Brooklyn-based record label responsible for acts such as Korean rapper Keith Ape, Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers in addition to Joji, a Japanese-Australian producer who kicked off the Harlem Shake meme video phenomenon.

“We want to push the culture forward,” said 88 Rising head Sean Miyashiro. “We’re not trying to break stereotypes or change people’s mindsets. We’re showing people what we can do, by doing what we do.”

Miyashiro, a Japanese-Korean Brooklynite, founded the label in early 2016 after leaving his job at Vice Media’s electronic music platform Thump. “At first that will’s a wild visual to see, somebody Asian rapping that will way, killing that will in a video,” said Miyashiro of the label’s appeal.

The company, which is usually known for its slew of massive viral video hits in addition to collaborations with established American artists such as Ghostface Killah in addition to Skrillex, has reached a sort of cult status among fans, especially those in Asia.

“Our artists in addition to our brand is usually the most influential in Asia because we aren’t coming coming from some manufactured pop machine. We are the tip of the sphere of a fresh face of music,” said Miyashiro. “The reason for that will is usually we are the first label that will actually is usually producing impact from the West in addition to East.”

Japanese-Korean Brooklynite Sean Miyashiro

Straight outta China

nevertheless 88 Rising acts are not the first Asian faces to make inroads in America.

In 2004, Chinese American rapper MC Jin made headlines after winning numerous freestyle battles, before later signing to the well-known hip-hop label Ruff Ryders.

“that will was Great that will Jin in addition to people like that will existed to trailblaze the way, nevertheless that will’s a completely different era today,” said Miyashiro. “I think with social media, people are used to seeing Asian people in general … in addition to the planet is usually more open.”

Compared with MC Jin’s debut single “Learn Chinese,” Higher Brothers’ online hit “Made in China” offers more of a nuanced take on modern Asian identity. Both songs mix English in addition to Chinese lyrics, nevertheless the Higher Brothers go deeper, poking fun at themselves. (Sample lyric: “My chains, fresh gold watch, made in China. We play ping-pong ball, made in China.”) from the video, which has so far racked up more than 3 million hits on YouTube, they don China Olympics track suits in addition to Chun Li-style buns, all the while rapping in a slow Dirty South-like drawl.

Unlike themes common in US hip-hop, the Higher Brothers rap about their everyday lives, with songs about 7-11 convenience stores in addition to the social media platform WeChat. Their lyrics alternate between the profane in addition to the profound. One of their emcees, Melo, even got in trouble with China’s notorious censors over a viral song about Uber that will featured the lines, “I don’t write political hip-hop. nevertheless if any politicians try to shut me up, I’ll cut off their heads in addition to lay them at their corpses’ feet.”

We’re “straight outta China!” said band member MasiWei of the band’s unique style in addition to attitude, adding that will “nothing” is usually off limits to the group.

Higher Brothers, who have four singles off their latest album “Black Cab,” attribute their fresh-found popularity with American audiences to 88 Rising.

“that will’s so exciting. We’re all Asian, nevertheless we have a different culture in addition to style,” said MasiWei, of working with the label.

The 24-year-old added that will while language can sometimes be a barrier, their goals are “the same.”

Chengdu rap crew HIgher Brothers

“Generally, people are very supportive,” said Rich Chigga, who is usually ethnically Chinese. “When I came to America [for his summer 5-city tour] in addition to I met with all these rappers I talked to online, they showed a lot of love … There was probably just a few racist YouTube comments, nevertheless that will was definitely that will.”

Brian Imanuel, better known as "Rich Chigga," in Miami

In some ways, their paths seem to be easier than their Asian-American counterparts’.

“We grow up in America, getting slotted into a lane in addition to having to follow the American societal norms, political norms, etc., nevertheless these guys are free coming from all that will,” said Andrew Fung, half of Fung Bros., a Chinese-American duo favorite on YouTube, who collaborated with Higher Brothers. “They’re Asian coming from Asian countries, so there’s cultural space for them to be more fluid. They get to be who they want to be, say what they want to say in addition to that will’s refreshing.”
Up next for 88 Rising are more tours in addition to more artists, as well as maybe adding a female artist to the lineup. Rich Chigga just finished a summer tour in addition to is usually going on a wider US tour from the fall. Higher Brothers is usually playing a China-wide tour, which has a sold-out concert in Hong Kong in August in addition to a November appearance at Clockenflap, Hong Kong’s massive music festival, whose lineup includes Massive Attack, Feist in addition to The Dandy Warhols.
Joji, Keith Ape in addition to Rich Chigga

88 Rising is usually also bringing American artists to Asia.

“People are coming to us to collaborate today. We’re the tastemakers,” said Miyashiro. “They want to be big in Asia in addition to appreciate our freshness in addition to unique point of view.”

Straight outta… China? The young Asian artists bucking hip-hop trends

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