Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Media company 88rising gives agency to Asian youth artists

Meg Itoh
Editor In Chief

We might know 88rising primarily as a YouTube channel that releases music videos for Asian artists and creates videos involving Asian cultures. However, founder Sean Miyashiro describes it as a management and media production company. Basically, 88rising is a media brand representing and celebrating Asian culture — not the exotic and backward one that might be flashing through your mind, but rather, the youth culture in Asia that is often overlooked in the West.

Artists managed by 88rising include: Brian Immanuel (known as Rich Chigga, and catapulted to fame with his music video for “Dat $tick” which features him in a pink polo and fanny pack), Keith Ape, Higher Brothers, Yaeji, NIKI and George Miller (who produces content under the names Filthy Frank, Pink Guy and Joji). These artists — primarily producing tracks within the genre of R&B and hip-hop — are subverting stereotypes. Asians are capable of creating music that isn’t anime soundtracks or K-pop jams, and 88rising proves that. They’re changing people’s perceptions of Asians, as Miyoshi says, just “by being alive.”

88rising is also bridging the East and West while giving Asians agency within the process. The Asian influences we observe in Western media are often limited to Western creations. We can see Asian influences in Western food, fashion and television, but these representations lack Asian agency. So it’s cool to see Asians actually creating content in which they’re portraying themselves in Western media. 88rising takes what used to be a West-East dynamic and now adds East-West creations into the mix.

Joji dropped his album “In Tongues” on Nov. 4, and the songs on this album are a far cry from his earlier work on “Pink Season,” which was released earlier this year under the name Pink Guy. “In Tongues” begins with the haunting “Will He,” which Joji has claimed is one of his favorite songs. The lyrics suggest that this is about an ex-lover who has found someone else. “Will your lover caress you the way, that I did? Will you notice my charm, if he slips up one bit?” he asks while singing along to a slow and haunting beat. Within the six tracks on the album, “Will He” probably has the most lyrical content.

His second track, “Pills,” impresses with its soothing sound that incorporates drums and creates a vibe that can only be described as otherworldly. He asks where his lover has gone and describes using Zoloft and Xanax to ease the loneliness. The bridge literally consists of the lyrics, “So I’ll fly away / Zoloft, Xanax / Zoloft, Xanax,” so that part wasn’t too hard to figure out, unless he’s being abstract and metaphorical, which is also possible — you never really know with George Miller. While the simple lyrics make it seem like the song is one-dimensional on paper, the repetition contributes to its ethereal feel. This seems to be a continuing theme across the album, also observed in fifth track, “Bitter Fuck.”

Meanwhile, “Demon” gives us a look deeper into the mind of Joji. He tells us of the demons and struggles that exist within him. “Window” also deals with more solemn matters of the self, as he suggests succumbing to the darkness and disregards the need for an antidote. But Joji’s conflict with death seems to resolve as he ends the album with “Worldstar Money Interlude,” and the last lyrics are “I don’t wanna die.”

“In Tongues” makes for good music, but also gives George Miller’s fans a small opening into his complex mind. He’ll be performing songs from this album in the 88rising Asia Tour, which will also feature Rich Chigga and the Higher Brothers.

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