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With the success of K-pop boyband BTS at the Billboard Music Awards, winning Top Social Artist two-years in a row in 2017 and 2018, it is undeniable that Asian music and culture is finally starting to enter the Western hemisphere. Progress like this is a welcome sight but is still a small step to getting more Asian representation in the entertainment world.
As an entertainment enthusiast, I often notice the lack of Asians in media. Next time you go to a theater, try to count the number of Asians in the film. (I think I saw one in the opening number of La La Land) After all, how many of you guys can name 10 Asian actors off the top of your head? China alone has a population of 1.3 billion, and the entirety of Asia, approximately 4.4 billion. Isn't it absurd that you can't name 10 Asian actors?
One company is trying to change this.
88rising, as described by Sean Miyashiro (founder), is a management, record label, video production, and marketing company. You may have heard of them... Or at least the artists that they've been backing.
Originally they started as a group CXSHXNLY, with core artists such as Brian Puspos, Josh Pan, and Jonathan Park, or otherwise famously known by his rapper name, Dumbfoundead. However, their real first hit when they found the then 16-year old Brian Immanuel in Indonesia.
Brian, formerly known as Rich Chigga (recently converted to Rich Brian), taught himself English, reportedly by watching Rubik's cube tutorials on YouTube. He released his first rap video, Dat $tick, on YouTube in 2016. Surprising everybody, including himself, the video now has 98 million views and went viral overnight.
88rising reached out to Brian, eventually signing him on to the record label and becoming part of their core group today.
Often with Asian representation in Western media, it is a blip that appears and disappears. Remember PSY? PSY appeared with Gangnam Style and Gentleman and disappeared back into Korea. Similarly, Rich Brian would've released Dat $tick, gotten paid by YouTube, and faded back into Indonesia. But 88rising is changing that.
88rising has been collecting up and coming Asian talents from around the world and is backing them to come to the Western forefront of entertainment. They've worked with Niki, Keith Ape, the Higher Brothers, and a recent popular pick, George Miller, a.k.a Joji.
Before becoming the serious Top100 Spotify artist Joji, George garnered a reputation on YouTube using his anti-vlogger persona, FilthyFrank, and his fellow company such as Salamander Man and popular comedy rap artist, Pink Guy. Although George officially retired his comedy YouTube career as FilthyFrank at the end of 2017, his career as a musician as Pink Guy certainly did not hurt his career as a serious musician. His top listened album on YouTube, named Pink Guy, racks up an impressive 11.5 views.
Did I mention that FilthyFrank was the person who started the entire Harlem Shake craze of 2013?
As a serious musician, Joji has produced many songs that have gained worldwide recognition. He has appeared on Spotify's Global Viral 50 Artists and reached Number 28 on the Billboard released Top R&B/HipHop Albums with his In Tongues EP.
Joji has also signed with 88rising and has recently released Peach Jam, a song collab with BlocBoy JB, an upbeat, summer-vibe song that is part of the 88rising Head in the Clouds project.
As 88rising sweeps up hit artists left and right, they are trying to build a team of rising immigrant artists that will hopefully become staples of Western entertainment, and not mere one-hit wonders. With a talented team composed of artists such as Rich Brian, Joji, Higher Brothers, Keith Ape, Kohh, and many more, it is certainly a hope-filling sight to see 88rising push for a stronger immigrant presence in the music industry.
For more information, check out their website:
Tickets to Head in the Clouds festival: