A smooth sound and succinct beats pulls back the chills of fall and begs its listeners to imagine themselves somewhere on a golden beach, much like the album cover of label 88rising’s newest collaborative album release, “Head In The Clouds II.”
Not many Asian artists are popular in the mainstream of American pop culture or music worldwide. On my search to find artists with music I can bop to on the long commutes, I stumbled across 88rising. Their first album, “Head In The Clouds,” gave me summer anthems like “Midsummer Madness” and “Lover Boy.”
Japanese singer Joji sings the first verse in “Midsummer Madness.”
“Last night, I lost all my patience / You were f*cked up, I was wasted / Midsummer madness / I can’t take it no more, no more,” Joji sings. Those melancholy, introspective lyrics return again in the second album.
“You got what I want, I see you walking away / This feels too real, I hope we could be the same / Back and forth but you won’t get nowhere / I just want to relive this over,” Joji sings in the new track, “Walking.”
88rising introduced me to one of my current favorite female artists, Indonesian singer NIKI. Her voice started 88rising’s first album in “La Cienga” with Joji.
“Empty bottles on the floor / Party’s over, thank the lord / Watching these four walls ’round me shrinking / It’s so quiet, I can hear myself think,” NIKI sings.
On the newest album, she holds her own in two songs “Indigo” and “La La Lost You.” “Indigo” itself is a sugar bop that is sure to empower ladies before a night out.
The most compelling of her songs on the album is “Shouldn’t Couldn’t Wouldn’t” with Indonesian rapper Rich Brian. In this song, she sings about her frustration of the person she’s with as being unable to “DTR” or define the relationship.
“All of the answers, but / Boy, I’ve been in love before / It’s not always peachy, look, life ain’t that easy / But one thing I know for sure is it,” NIKI sings.
One of the sweetest songs of the album is “I Love You 3000,” featuring Indonesian singer Stephanie Poetri and Hong Kong rapper Jackson Wang. It brings listeners back to Marvel’s “Endgame” (if you know, you know).
A musical representation of the album cover is the song “Tequila Sunrise,” which has a whole cast of artists on the album: Jackson Wang, Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers, Los Angeles-born, Koreatown-based singer AUGUST 08 and American rapper GoldLink.
“I don’t feel like arguin’ tonight with you, with you / Just wanna be the best that I can be for you / Drinkin’ tequila sunrise while the sun risin,” AUGUST 08 sings.
we got this far cause we bet on ourselves, did it ourselves, and will always be our whole ass selves
— 88rising (@88rising) October 12, 2019
The appeal of “Head In The Clouds” and 88rising is the variety of artists in the songs. Although the album itself has one vision, the variety of collaborations and voices throughout the album keeps it from being boring. There is a new sound for each of the 16 tracks. Some of the artists even found their own success with solo albums, a personal favorite of mine being NIKI’s “Zephyr” in 2018.
Founder of 88rising Sean Miyashiro, who is of Japanese and Korean descent, wanted to promote Asian culture worldwide, he told Pitchfork in an interview in 2017
“There’s some fly Asian shit out there, but no one can tangibly give you an example,” Miyashiro said.
That’s how I felt when I first sought out Asian music. I knew it was out there, but finding it was another question. 88rising brings together incredibly talented Asian artists and just urges you to listen.
A line in the second to last album of “Head In The Clouds II” sums up the community within and outside of 88rising.
“Shout-out 88, that’s my family to the grave,” Rich Brian raps.
Thumbnail courtesy of Hypebeast.com
Kimberly Nguyen is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.