88Rising Is Setting a New Cultural Stage For Hip HopR
Last month, I attended a screening of a new documentary called Asia Rising: The Next Generation of Hip Hop, made by Red Bull in collaboration with hip-hop label, 88Rising. The label specifically focuses on bringing light to hip-hop artists from Asia. The documentary follows artists from the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and China, and was a total eye-opener for me. It discusses what hip-hop means to these artists, who grew up with a very different idea of it. In America, hip-hop is very much imbued by race and society, but looking at the scene from afar, these Asian artists turned it into something of their own.
Growing up half-Japanese, I never felt very represented in media. It wasn’t until 2010 that the first Asian-American group rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (Far East Movement, Like a G6). And it wasn’t until 2018 that we got the first Asian blockbuster, Crazy Rich Asians. Even though I didn’t grow up speaking Japanese or following the traditions of the culture, it’s still so important to me to see people who look like me and my family being represented. It’s one of those things that you don’t realize how much you need until you see it. That’s how I felt watching Crazy Rich Asians and how I felt watching Asia Rising.
Labels like 88Rising are making huge waves for the Asian community, but also for hip-hop culture at large. These artists have taken something so American that stems from such a specific place and time in African-American culture, and turned it into something new. These Asian artists also feel marginalized and use hip-hop as a way of expressing themselves, letting the world know how they feel, and venting. Many of them, like Rich Brian, pretty much learned English through hip-hop music, so their whole framework of American culture is built on the words of Tupac and Biggie.
I personally find it fascinating that hip-hop has resonated so much across the world. It’s such a powerful form of expression that it can bridge the gap between cultures and evolve into a globalized language. Listening to the stories of these artists made me realize just how powerful music can be in bringing people together. All of the artists come from such different backgrounds, from the nerdy teenager to the Japanese woman who fell in love in Atlanta and lost her husband to gang violence. All of them turned to hip-hop to express their anger and confusion at the world and use it as a therapy to cope with and learn from hardships.
If you want to feel inspired and learn a little more about cultures that aren’t actually so different than ours, I highly recommend checking out Asia Rising. It’s enlightening and shows that one man’s vision of bringing success to Asian hip-hop artists can change the lives of so many. It’s a story worth knowing, not to mention how talented all of the artists are.
Cover image via Twitter