Vulture: Rich Brian Interview

via Vulture
words by Frank Guan

One might think that after our extensive article on him last fall, we wouldn’t have much left to say about Rich Brian, the up-and-coming Indonesian-Chinese rapper. But with a new album out today and a fresh name change (he’s now the artist formerly known as Rich Chigga), there ends up being plenty to discuss. As the name change suggests, Amen is something of a rebirth for the artist: crisp and assured, it confirms the turn Brian (full name Brian Imanuel) has taken away from trap replicas easily mistakable for parodic appropriation toward a more seasoned and melodic sensibility grounded in personal narrative. It also happens to be a showcase for Imanuel’s burgeoning talents as a producer: Almost entirely self-produced, the album’s bright and buoyant sound contrasts nicely with the newly grounded persona put forward by the 18-year old. We met with Brian in the Manhattan offices of his managing company 88rising to mull over, in no particular order, how he learned to speak perfect English, why his ambitions began with The Raid films, Asian parents who don’t tell their kids what to study, money, studio time with Pharrell, and his dad having a Molotov cocktail in his hand in 1998.

Amen is your first album, and the first time you’ve produced your own album.
I produced like 95 percent of it. There’s a collaboration with J Gramm, who did “Broccoli” with D.R.A.M, and there’s one with Niki, who’s also from 88rising, and that’s fully produced by her.

You said in a song that you were working with Pharrell on something.

We didn’t finish it, but that was the first time I was in L.A. They hit us up for an interview, so I did Othertone with them, and we just kind of clicked. Before that, I’d never worked with anyone else in the studio. I’d just do it in my room; I’m not used to it. That was crazy. I woke up at like 7:30 in the morning, got there at 8, he was already in the studio working. He was like, show me some unreleased music so I can know what you’re going for; I played him three songs. I never had to write in front of anyone. It was a now-or-never moment. That was the fastest I’ve ever written anything, because Pharrell was in the room. The sounds he used for that beat were the same sounds he used on [Lil Uzi Vert’s] “Neon Guts.”

On the song that broke you out, “Dat Stick,” you were already specifying what you wanted to hear from the producer. Has this always been an interest for you? You were playing the drums when you were younger.
Another thing with producers is it’s hard to explain what you want. They usually never get it right. You learn so much other stuff from self-producing. Mixing, the other technical stuff, how to set up a hard-ass drop, what makes songs catchy.

So have any artists reached out to you about producing for them?
21 Savage, actually. Cause we shot the music video for “Crisis” and he found out that I produced the song and then he was like, here’s my number, send me a beat pack. I haven’t sent it to him yet.

That’s the kind of thing you would want to wait on doing. To tailor it for him, there’s a certain strike zone for him.
Definitely. Also, I’ve just been so focused on this record.

The lyrics on this album, they’re quite different from what you were doing before. They remind me a lot more of Drake lyrics, in a way. 
I’ve been really inspired by Drake, Kendrick Lamar. I’m super into Kendrick Lamar’s style of writing. And, like, Childish Gambino too. All the songs I put out since “Glow Like Dat” will be on this record. I feel like that song was the turning point.

Did the fact that song got more streams than anything since “Dat Stick” kind of push you in that direction?
When I put out that song, I wasn’t sure how people would feel about it. That was my first time singing on a track. And some people were like, what the fuck is this. But what they don’t know is that if they keep hearing the old style, they’re going to get bored. Some people know me as the “Dat Stick” guy but also a whole lot of people know me as the “Glow Like Dat” guy. On this project I’m also experiencing a lot of newer sounds because I’m getting a lot of different inspirations like Mac Demarco and Tame Impala and stuff like that.

I remember watching a YouTube video that was, like, how to make a Rich Chigga song.
Ah yeah. That was really good. The one where he was actually rapping on it? I love that video.

Did that steer you to step your game up so that people can’t just crack the code on you?
A little bit, a little bit, yeah. That was so funny, the sound of the synth he chose for that beat is literally my favorite sound.

So Offset is on this album. How’d you reach out to him?
My manager, Sean [Miyashiro, founder of 88rising], was like, who would you really love to have on this record. I’d made the song (“Attention”), already made the beat. Offset would sound so dope. I thought of a couple of people, but Offset was really the best. Sean just hit him up.

Tell me a bit more about your relationship with 88rising. 
A long time ago, when I’d just put out the “Dat Stick” video, he followed me on Twitter, and I DMed him the link, like, if you have the time, you should check this out. He was like, I already checked it out, what’s your number so I can put you in touch with my manager. Sean was managing Dumbfoundead, he was managing Keith Ape, telling me all about his vision. This was before 88rising started, on YouTube at least. And I was like, “This is super dope and I want to be part of this.” And it’s been a great relationship ever since. I worked with Sean for a year before actually meeting him, just calling on the phone from opposite time zones.

Hmm, Jakarta. I assume you’ve seen The Raid films?

You like those?
Oh, definitely. The second one was so good.

I feel like The Raid 2 is underrated. The first one’s great, but if you rewatch The Raid 2 the plot is so intricate.
The cinematography, yeah. Also, The Raid was a pretty big part of my motivation and drive to do this.

Really? Say more.
This guy, Joe Taslim, he was one of the actors. He was, I think he was the lieutenant? [Taslim plays Jaka, the sergeant.] After that movie came out, he got a role in Fast & Furious [6]. It wasn’t even that big of a role, he was one of the bad guys. But even that, seeing it as a kid, I was like, holy shit. That was the first time that an Indonesian person got into Hollywood, and seeing that was just like a mixture, of just like …

Like you didn’t know that road existed?
Exactly. I was just like, this is insane, I’m so jealous and so motivated and so driven at the same time.

A couple of The Raid guys were in the first [new] Star Wars, right? 
[Laughs] That was amazing.

They didn’t get to do much, but …
They were speaking Javanese, which is like a part of the Indonesian language, and my parents speak Javanese, so.

Tell me a bit more about your family. They’re Chinese but they’re part of the diaspora, right?
We’re like a Chinese and Indonesian mixture. I have three siblings; I’m the youngest one, and my parents have been nothing but supportive.

I feel like there’s a lot of Asian parents who don’t get that kind of recognition. 
I think it also came from my sister, ‘cause she started singing when she was 3 years old. Now, she’s a fashion blogger. I think my parents just understand the whole entertainment world because of that. But they were also really against my decision. When I told them when I was 13 that I wanted to move to America when I turned 17, they were like, absolutely not. You’re not gonna be there by yourself, you need someone there to protect you, I don’t think we can do that yet. And at one point I’m like, “All right. I’m probably never gonna be in America now, I’m gonna be in Indonesia.” But then the 88rising thing happened and I told my mom. “Hey mom, I might be going to America to perform a show.” And my mom was like, “Go, do it.” Right away. I definitely cannot do it without their support.

Is there a track on the album for your family?
I definitely have a few lines.

But not a whole track.
Not yet, not yet. I would love to make that, though.

You’ve got a lot of Asian fans, I feel like they would really like that.
For sure.

Can you see past this album yet?
Yeah, I’d say so. I’m definitely going to keep working on songs, nonstop. I haven’t lately because I have to focus on everything, like music videos. I’m thinking of just consistently putting out singles. And I want to get into acting, that was part of my passion. I need to take acting classes, though.

You’re already thinking of video concepts for the songs on Amen.
Even when I first make the beat, I already kind of know what the visual treatment will be.

And you’re how old now, 19?

Given that you couldn’t imagine five years ago what you’re doing now, can you even start to think of what you’d be in five years?
I feel like acting is what I really wish to do.

In an American movie?
Just to be, like, the second Joe Taslim. [Laughs]

It could happen. There’s this Asian rapper, her name’s Awkwafina …
Yeah, I love her.

She’s going to be in the next Ocean’s Eleven movie.
I saw her on Neighbors 2. I love her role in that one. Have you seen that one?

I haven’t. It’s nice that she stuck around and now she’s getting gigs to be an actress.
The role she played, she’s in a sorority, and she’s like, the badass. Which is totally what I would want to do, if I was like her.

I noticed some lyrics on the album are directed at what it’s like to be Asian. Is that something you’re starting to delve into further? Or are you aiming more at the mainstream?
I don’t think I actually went over that that much? I did mention the—

The straight-A stuff, right.
Yeah, that was one of them. I’m not really thinking about it too much. I’m just writing about what I’m thinking, what I think needs to be said. My focus right now is just to be as authentic as I can, as honest as I can in my lyrics. Honesty is the key to good art. Back then, when I would write lyrics, sometimes I would cringe at lines that were too embarrassing. But I realized that when I heard other people’s music and they’d do that, you can feel the confidence and it’s awesome. That’s what I’ve been trying to do more.

How often do you get to go home these days? Is it more or less like college right now, you’re away for nine months and home for three?
I try to go home every three months. Last time I was here for six months, though, for the tour.

Do you still have the same friends you used to have back home?
When I get back it feels like I never even left.

Has your family been in Indonesia for a long time?

Like they were around for the pogroms, 50 years ago?
The what?

Back when all the killing happened, 50 years ago. It was when Suharto took over.
There was a thing in ’98. I wasn’t born yet, but they told me some crazy stories. My dad built a Molotov bomb and everything. They were hiding in bakeries and my siblings were still little babies.

Is that part of the reason they kept you out of the school system?
There’s multiple reasons. My brother was the first to be home-schooled, and one reason they home-schooled me was so he wouldn’t get jealous. Another thing is my mom noticed that I would stress out a lot about school. I would ask my teacher how good my grades were and think about that all the time. Being home-schooled, you really get to explore your hobbies, what you want to do for a living. I figured out I wanted to do cinematography just watching YouTube videos.

You speak perfectly now.
Thank you.

How long did that take you? Were you Skype conversating a lot?
I started when I was 11, from watching a bunch of YouTube videos. One day I was thinking about something, and you know you have the inner voice, and one day it was in English. It was like having a friend to talk to. I made an American friend on Twitter and talked to him every day on Skype. He’d teach me: I’d say, Oh shit, you hanged upand he was like, You mean hung up.

And that was around the time you started listening to rap music?
2012, yeah. I got into Drake, “Started From the Bottom,” 2 Chainz. The first album I ever listened to was by Childish Gambino. I love hearing those scary chords, I remembered hearing that for the first time with the 808s and going, holy shit, what is this.

It’s like a whole different language within English.
I learned a lot about American culture. Learning rap songs, learning how to rap, really helped my pronunciation. You have to do it fast.

When you first emerged as a musical artist, did you understand how and why people were responding to you in America?
It definitely took me a little bit. It took four or five months to really figure it out, to learn why people even like me, what I should stick with. It was constantly changing.

You already knew something about having a lot of people respond to you, because you were doing comedy stuff before, right?
I learned a lot of stuff on Twitter. A lot of marketing, seeing how people respond.

So what was different about the response to you as a musician? What did you have to learn that you didn’t know before?
Sounds, music videos. My style.

Did you understand why people didn’t like you? Were you interested in that aspect as well?

What did you conclude? How did you adjust to that?

You don’t have to deal with that as much as a comedian. Now you’re a musician who calls himself Rich Chigga. It’s not something everyone’s going to be fully onboard with.
I figured that out almost instantly, just seeing people’s response.

You always read the comments.
I read the comments a lot. Other than that, there were people who were like, his flow is starting to sound the same. When I saw that I knew I had to try new stuff.

The flows on this album, you’re going less with the deep voice.
Yeah. One thing I learned through producing was this thing I call the day-and-night effect. Going from the deep voice to the high voice. I’ve been doing a lot of that.

You’ve toured in Asia. How do they know about you there? How big are the crowds there?
The crowd is very big, actually. I think they just like seeing an Asian face, it automatically resonates with them. It’s funny, a lot of Indonesian people — from the whole Twitter thing, I’ve always been aiming for the U.S. So when I first came out, I was performing at a festival and they released the lineup, all the Indonesians were commenting, Yo, he’s finally coming to Indonesia. Because I didn’t put it out that much. I still repped Indonesia, but it wasn’t in my bio or anything.

Do you feel like you’d ever do an album focused on Jakarta? Or would that not be something Americans would be interested in.
I don’t know. We’ll see. On this project there are some songs where I’m talking about my home country. We’ll see. I would love to do that though.

Can we talk about money for a bit?

What level of money would you need to feel comfortable? Like, are you already past that point?
I’m definitely already comfortable. I’m really not a materialistic person. I very rarely shop. The only money I spend is on, like, Uber and food. This whole tour, the only thing I bought was an Airsoft gun. [Laughs] That was it. Even when I bought that I felt kind of guilty about spending my money on that shit.

Highsnobiety: Rich Brian ‘Amen’ Review

Rich Brian’s Supremely Confident Flow Makes ‘Amen’ a Triumph

via Highsnobiety
words by Douglas Greenwood

We often find ourselves criticizing today’s new breed of hip-hop artists for occupying two extremes of the rap spectrum. They’re either too old-fashioned – making music laced with misogyny and overcooked cash-related tropes – or are completely blind to the genre’s vitally important roots that let the people society persecuted form their own creative narratives. But the 18-year-old Indonesian rapper Rich Brian, with his youthful, semi-ironic approach to the genre, has always sat somewhere in the middle ground.

As a Vine star-turned-rapper, his rise to fame is the kind most post-millennials would mock, unable to decide whether the music he’s making is satirical or serious. When he started out at the age of 14, uploading comedic clips online with viral success soon following, the idea of this Jakarta-hailing kid becoming rap’s next big name seemed a little far-fetched.

And yet here are. Two years after leaving a sour taste in many mouths with his problematic ‘Rich Chigga’ moniker, and an unexpected dropping of the ‘n-bomb’ on his debut single “Dat $tick,” the rapper is on a road to redemption with Amen: a cool-headed collection of songs that try to bat away today’s hip-hop trends at every turn.

While most artists seem wrapped up in the repetitive, Migos-coined ‘triplet flows’, Brian’s style favors his own flow over cadence; it’s confident – so confident in fact, that he’s able to distract from the minor flaws that do exist on his debut entirely. It’s a stretch to say his style is singular – he’s indebted, like most new artists are, to Tyler, the Creator and Childish Gambino – but his ability to put thought into what could’ve been a throwaway cash-in is admirable, to say the least.

It would’ve been easy for Brian to form that front – giving us a Migos Culture II-style record packed to the rafters with cocky references to money, beautiful women and nothing more – but he’s choosing to have a little fun with his lamb-like position in the rap game. He knows he’s young, and despite the pious connotations of his album’s title, Amen doesn’t delve too deeply into anything existential.

Instead, it functions as an intriguing and incisive look into the goofy life of a world famous 18-year-old, one who’s not let fame go to his head quite yet. The album flits between songs about his heritage, his come-up, and the girls he’s met along the way. It’s supercharged and proudly infantile – like a rap-pop record without any of the reductiveness.

It’s impossible not to find something to like about Brian on Amen. Beneath the boisterous brags, there’s touches of kiddish homesickness and fragility; not something you’d have expected to hear on a rap record from a newcomer 10 years ago. ”I’m on the road and I’m lovin’ my bunk / Still missin’ home, but I’m havin’ my fun,” he raps on “See Me,” before joking that he’s the “Indonesian MC Hammer.”

“Don’t test me because my skin ain’t thick”, he commands on “Glow Like Dat,” the first single the record spawned. These references to his own imperfections help us make sense of where he belongs in the rap genre. While he’s grabbed co-signs from some of rap’s most prolific mainstream figures and has managed to permeate late night television, something about the cloud rap-friendly sound of Amensuggests it’ll go down well with Peep and Yung Lean fans too.

If there’s one thing that holds the album back, it’s Brian’s slightly unambitious production. It lacks the hookish, earworm ability his superiors have, and so a few of the songs here have a habit of blurring into each other. There are exceptions though, like the booming, appropriately impure production of the sex-tinged “Kitty.”

Considering its his debut, it’s surprising how much Brian is left free to stand on his own two feet. His label 88rising’s trust in him as an artist in his own right means that he has full command on 70% of Amen, with some versatile collaborators making sporadic stop-offs throughout. They range from fresh-faced and fairly unknown vocalists like AUGUST 08 to contemporary (if problematic) rap royalty like Offset.

On “Attention,” the track that the Migos star jumps on, Brian manages to stand toe-to-toe with Offset’s relentless flow. It’s interesting to see how the two rappers, tied together by viral success, approach this boastful, flex-heavy cut. While Offset sticks to his comfort zone – Patek watches and Bentleys – Brian reels off a series of intelligently crafted, unexpected lines. “I got people locked and loaded like they trained for ISIS,” he lambasts, while crediting his stress-relieving reliance on chamomile tea rather than hard drugs. He might be the newcomer here, but Brian unequivocally comes out on top.

Amen rounds out with a conversation between Brian and a friend, eating chips and discussing the emotional turmoil that stems from watching the season finale of The Office. It’s the figurative icing on a record that never seems to take itself overly serious, but manages to discuss the realities of fame in a way that isn’t overly melodramatic or exploited for lyrical fodder.

It proves Brian’s foray into hip-hop is far from a joke, and though his internet following might suggest something different, he’s still got some way to becoming a rap deity yet. Instead, Amen acts as an accomplished and wildly intriguing scene-setter for a career that’s just beginning.

DJ Booth: Rich Brian ‘Amen’ Review

via DJ Booth
words by Yoh

The path to forgiveness begins with an apology. Acceptance isn’t guaranteed or promised, but the process of being forgiven doesn’t start without owning up to your impudence.

Rich Chigga becoming Rich Brian isn’t some grand expression of regret. I don’t expect his decision to change his stage name to band-aid the problematic parts of his viral arrival. What should be acknowledged is how the outrage he caused wasn’t simply undermined and wheelbarrowed into the recycling bin like hate spam; it actually reached Brian Imanuel. The decision to change his name was a sign of maturity, an artist who’d rather be taken seriously than see a potential future buried underneath juvenile ignorance.

Can Rich Brian become a star? Perhaps. Without shock value to create attention, and the controversy of his name removed from the equation, the music and videos take center stage. Does he have songs absent of insolence able to receive the viral presence of “Dat $tick?” Uncertain. Not having the answers, however, is what adds a layer of interest to his music.

If he’s no longer a parody of Southern trap rappers, who is Rich Brian? Once you strip away the name, guns, fanny pack, and attitude, he’s just another 18-year-old kid on the cusp of being bigger than his dreams or fading away before the next surprise Beyoncé album.

Amen, Rich Brian’s debut project—he refuses to call it an album—will set the precedence of his 2018, and quite possibly his entire career in music.

Following our traditional 1-Listen review rules, I must listen to Amen from start to finish without stopping, editing, rewinding, or fast-forwarding. Everything I write will be based on my gut reaction.

1. “Amen”

The bassline is wobbling harder than Lil Bow Wow’s shoulders doing the Harlem Shake. For a brief moment, I had flashbacks to Mike WiLL’s “DNA.” Not as crazy, not even close, but hard-hitting out the gate. Flow is Migos-esque, not as fast, but he’s in their pocket. Brian has a nice vocal texture. Perfect for rap. A free-flowing intro. The percussion sounds like milk bottles being clung together. “I don’t need no education internet my favorite teacher.” I felt this on a spiritual level. There are some personal rhymes here, but you can tell he’s obviously still in the teenage adolescent stage of self-reflection. Production is nice, though.

2. “Cold”

The build-up reminds me of Luigi’s Mansion. Ominous and weird. Drums have a nice leg drop. I’m liking this much better than the intro. Smooth. Mentioned his dad as the call for wisdom, and cabs for his alcoholic nights. A role model. The loneliness reminds me of a less problematic Tyler. “Cold” is a nice vibe. The beat just exploded into a wide range of colors, rainbow chords and stark drums. Lovely breakdown. “I don’t take drugs, I just take naps.” Ha. The flow is laser sharp here. Impressive. He mentions never using triplet flows because he’s not a Migo, hahaha very aware of critics. “Cold” should’ve been the album opener. I’m a bit more excited now. He has an idea of what he wants his sound to be and the bars aren’t bad, just youthful. Brian is telling his truth and I’m enjoying it.

3. “Occupied”

Taking a second to appreciate the cover, very icy. Vintage frames are back. OK, back to the song. I’m loving the knock. My gut tells me this could be a banger but I also didn’t eat breakfast so that could be the growl of starvation. “Occupied” is music on the pulse, a RapCaviar add. Infectious, you just have to bounce. Hoping the flow gets a bit more inventive as the album progresses. Is this the hook? I’m not sure if I’ve heard any hooks yet. Everything has been short. He just threatened his runner if he doesn’t have his Chick-fil-A; look at what America is doing to young Brian. What I referred to previously was indeed the hook, even though he delivers everything once and moves on instead of making the listener chant along. Maybe he’s not a fan of repetition.

4. “Introvert” ft. Joji

A change in tempo. A nice curveball. Keys are ambient. Drums are hard. Harder than juveniles convicted of shoplifting. He’s singing. Singing. Joji? The voice is too mellow to be Brian. I’m not in love with the album’s songwriting. I do like the bounce of this beat, even though it’s more mellow than energetic. I’ve walked through graveyards after dark with more life than what I’m hearing from this hook. The second verse is smooth. He has a nice melodic suaveness. With a better singer, this song could’ve really popped. I like its sugary, Rice Krispies Treats pop sound but a song this sweet is supposed to get stuck between molars like a popcorn hull and it completely fails to do so.

5. “Attention” ft. Offset

I’m looking forward to this one. Slow buildup. So many of his piano loops sound like they were ripped from video games. I almost punched my laptop screen with the way these drums just came in. Warning: this song will encourage you to move as if a thousand fire ants have crawled down your pants. It’s the only reasonable reaction. Brian’s verse is pretty exhilarating. He knew doing a trap song with Offset meant cranking things up a level. This has to be the first trap song where the rapper brags to their mom that all their meals are culinary. All his brags are adorable. Offset! Woo! This is synchronized swimming. Someone bring out the body bag. Offset and Rich are more in sync than my iPhone and iTunes account. I wish this was a Migos song featuring Brian; Takeoff would’ve gone full rocketship. Off killed, though. He deserves acknowledgment from Obama for working Fonzworth Bentley’s name into his flow. Good song. Bad hook.

6. “Glow Like Dat”

Hmm. This is interesting. It sounds like a sunflower playing the guitar underneath a pale moonlight. Melodic Brian is back with the vibes. “Glow Like Dat” does what “Introvert” failed to do. His pop songs are kid bops, no pun. The soundtrack to another teen movie. I can envision young ladies loving this record with the windows down. I wouldn’t mind a cheesy teenage movie staring Rich Brian directed by Kevin Abstract. The keys are filling me with the love of a thousand grandparents. Good song. Probably the best-constructed song of the album thus far. Gives a perfect sound to his personality and style.

7. “Trespass”

Hahaha. This beat is a hot potato. The snare is hotter than a bowl of chili peppers dipped in hot sauce. Why isn’t Rick Ross on this!? T.I. should be on here talking about the trap being back jumping. How did such a trap banger not enter Gucci’s inbox? Brian sounds good, but he’s not doing this beat justice! Wait! He’s finally off the launching pad and soaring. Right after bragging about wearing perfume the whole energy amplifies. Ric Flair would howl a WOO to the moon if he heard this beat. Not bad, Brian.

8. “Flight”

The strangest beat on the album so far. Unconventional. The loop is so strange. It sounds like trying to moonwalk forward, or tap dancing with your fingers, or ordering pancakes at Waffle House. It sounds wrong, the kind of strange that you spend your entire life trying to avoid. Singing Brian doesn’t sound terrible. There’s a little bounce. But this one is shaping up to be a hard pass. The first certain skip. What the hell is that sound? My skin is crawling far away from this song. Did he say he worked with Pharrell on his first session? That’s a stunt.

9. “See Me”

Lush. I like it. It feels like I’m riding on the back of a motorcycle in the year 3500. I remember this was released as a single. It reminds me of Baka Not Nice’s flow on the first verse, but the singing and production really tie this one together as a good package of pop. He has a knack for building songs, fleshing out ideas. Another RapCaviar banger. Any song that could be big on the playlist but might not make it to radio is officially deemed RapCaviar banger. This is my current favorite.

10. “Enemies”

I wonder who Rich Brian considers an enemy? Again, a real lush buildup. I’m not feeling this one. He’s trying far too hard. His attempts at making trap in his image haven’t sounded generic until now. Hm. This sounds familiar. Sample? Maybe… Production is giving me strong déjà vu. He’s been on a nice anti-drug kick. Just dismissed molly. Skipping this one. Brian, my friend, I’m not believing you ever feel in the position that a case could be caught. I’m just not.

11. “Kitty”

I pray this isn’t a song about what I think this song is about. Don’t be cliché. Wait. Storytelling. This is interesting. Very hyphy. Wait! This is hard. What bartender is selling this child liquor? Jesus, I’m getting old. Dang. The hook is horrendous. And it’s a story about a girl. But I like this change of pace. Very saucy. Nice swing. Nice bang. The storytelling of him having sex is… jarring. I don’t know why rappers believe we care about their nightcaps. Brian is rapping about losing his virginity while “Bump & Grind” plays. Dang. You ever wonder what music the next generation will have sex to? Daniel Caesar? PND? IceJJFish? What just happened? Wait for the plot twist…

12. “Little Prince” ft. NIKI

Hahaha. Man. The kids are going to love this album. More Jolly Rancher pop. The production sounds how Adventure Time looks―bright, the kind of color kids are drawn to. Is this meant to be the crossover radio record? Maybe. NIKI has a nice voice. Sounds like marshmallows and chocolate syrup have replaced her human vocal chords. “Little Prince” is pretty boring, but also cute in a nauseating way. But I’m old. What causes my stomach to turn is the music that will make someone’s day. Not mad at it. Won’t play it again, but not mad. [Editor’s Note: Yoh is 26. He is not old.]

13. “Chaos”

Rich Brian loves to talk about women and sex, but that’s a pretty common trope with rappers. The beat is rather alien. Martian synths. The drums could’ve been a bit more ambitious. Hahaha, oh god. The Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson line almost made me give up on this entire review. I’m glad every song is short. This has been amusing, to say the least.

14. “Arizona” ft. AUGUST 08

A guest singer. I’m getting a very uplifting vibe from the chords and this vocalist. Not bad, AUGUST. I hear the soulfulness. I’m not in love so far, but I’m feeling the warmth. Nice Jodeci line. He’s killing this verse. I like this verse a lot. Step Brothers reference. A couple of these bars are really hitting. A nice SZA nod. After Brian, I’m liking “Arizona” so much more. Holy shit what just happened. A scream. A beat switch. Fast flow. Very synthy. He’s going OFF. He’s going to run out of breath. Getting heavy Tyler vibes. I wouldn’t mind if Tyler gave beats to Brian. They would be an ill combination. Man. I was just getting into the first half before this sudden shift. It was well done. Nice, nice. Two voices. Talking about the series finale of The Office. Wait. HAHAHA. He just lied about the ending of The Office. This kid is sick and twisted hahaha.

Rich Brian’s Amen is an amusing debut. The project sounds like a teenager in the age of social media. He keeps things short; no song ever feels as if it’s trying your patience or testing your attention span.

Amen is a reminder that hip-hop is the world’s biggest genre, filled with trap aesthetics and present-day lyricism. Brian borrows the sounds made famous by the Metro Boomins and the Migos and adds his touch, tastefully illustrating the life he knows over mostly aggressive, thunderous backdrops. When he leans harder into the synthy Skittles pop, he still retains a certain naturalness. Despite having such a heavy voice, the lighter music is a great contrast to his trap-influenced music.

Unapologetically, Brian makes kids bops―the kind of music crafted for a younger demographic. Not a necessarily a flaw, he’s a kid himself. Somewhere a Disney executive is depressed for not discovering the kid five years ago. With that said, the immaturity of his music is made up by a powerful voice, and he has an excellent texture for hip-hop and a knack for crafting saccharine production. He knows what works, sticking to familiar formulas without crossing into blatant copying.

Amen isn’t without its shortcomings—there are cringe-worthy lyrics and uninspired hooks—but these issues can be ironed out with growth and further development. Rich Brian is making music that’s capable of fitting in with the present. He is on the pulse, able to fit into playlists filled with trap rap and melodic pop. With some work, he can become the kind of artist that doesn’t just fit in but is able to stand out.

Billboard: Rich Brian Interview

Rich Brian Discusses Debut Album ‘Amen’ and Name Change: ‘Rich Chigga Isn’t Me Anymore’

via Billboard
words by Carl Lamarre

“Rich Chigga isn’t me anymore,” says Brian Imanuel, the Indonesian rapper who, after rising through the viral ranks with the controversial moniker, changed his name to Rich Brian in January, ahead of the Feb. 2 release of his debut album, Amen.

“Being in the United States made me realize that I wanted to [make the] change,” says the 18-year-old, who moved from Jakarta to Los Angeles last July. “I wanted to go a certain way with my music, a certain direction. It just felt right.”

Brian’s original stage name was a better fit for his early, more troll-like incarnation. His internet hit “Dat $tick,” which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart in 2016, was criticized for what some saw as a mockery of hip-hop culture. In its video (at 84 million YouTube views and counting), he is flanked by gun-toting associates while -pouring liquor on the ground and wearing a fanny pack — and, most controversially, casually dropping the N-word.

But the track struck a chord with those impressed by his ratatat flow and dizzying lyricism, including established rappers like Cam’Ron and Ghostface Killah(Ghostface later appeared on the “Dat $tick” remix). And Brian — who started off as something of a social media star, with a comic Vine and Twitter persona — soon came to take the responsibility of representing for hip-hop more seriously. “It’s super tight seeing people be like, ‘You make this seem possible,’” he says. “It’s not even just Asian people, but teens and kids my age that are homeschooled.” (Brian was homeschooled himself, in Jakarta.)

Brian in the “Dat $tick” video, which boosted him from social media star to musician.
Courtesy of 88rising
Brian in the “Dat $tick” video, which boosted him from social media star to musician.

Backed by an Asian management company, 88rising, that’s home to Keith Ape, and Higher Brothers, it’s hard not to see Brian as a representative for Asian rappers angling for the mainstream. But he’d rather not have his ethnicity as the focus and is quick to denounce anyone who might pigeonhole him. “I don’t want to be boxed in or looked at a certain way, as in, ‘Yo, he’s an Asian rapper,’” he says. “It’s pretty hard as an Asian rapper to not be put in a box. I do my best to avoid that.”

With his sonorous voice, clever rhymes and booming beats — he produced almost every track on Amen, which features Offset and 88rising’s Joji — Brian’s carving out his place in hip-hop, but he still insists on finding his own way. “For songs to be big, I don’t think there’s a certain formula to it,” he says. “I’m finding new ways and new songs to make things catchy. I’m just trying to be more versatile.”

Genius: Rich Brian Shares The Tracklist & Trailer For His Upcoming Debut Album ‘Amen’

via Genius
words by Chris Mench

Viral Indonesian rapper Rich Brian (f.k.a. Rich Chigga) is set to drop his debut album Amen on Friday, and today he revealed the project’s full tracklist and trailer. The album is set to feature OffsetNIKIJoji, and AUGUST 08, and will include Brian’s recent singles “Glow Like Dat,” “See Me,” and “Chaos.” Some of his other songs from 2017, including “Crisis” featuring 21 Savage and “Gospel” with Keith Ape and XXXTentacion, didn’t make the final cut.

The short album trailer features Brian pulling out an old-school film reel to project the title of his debut album on the wall:

Earlier this year, Rich Brian changed his name from Rich Chigga, saying he had made a mistake by choosing the original name:

Amen is Brian’s first full-length project, and is expected to be largely or entirely self-produced. It’s available to pre-save and pre-order now.

Watch the trailer above and check out the full tracklist below:

1. “Amen”
2. “Cold”
3. “Occupied”
4. “Introvert” feat. Joji
5. “Attention” feat. Offset
6. “Glow Like Dat”
7. “Trespass”
8. “Flight”
9. “See Me”
10. “Enemies”
11. “Kitty”
12. “Little Prince” feat. NIKI
13. “Chaos”
14. “Arizona” feat. AUGUST 08

C-Heads Magazine: Duckwrth Interview

“I want to make my own rules” A talk with Duckwrth

via C-Heads Magazine
words by Lauren Engel

Growing up in South Central LA, gospel and jazz was a big part of Duckwrth’s life. Duckwrth went on to study graphic design at Academy of Art in San Francisco. Since then he has toured with Anderson Paak, Rich Brian and Pomo. Excited for his upcoming music!

Watch the video interview:

Clash Premiere: Manu Crooks “Different League” + Interview

via Clash

Before hitting the stage at Ace Hotel for his headline set at the Clash Issue 106 launch party tomorrow night, we caught up with Ghana-born, Sydney-raised rapper Manu Crooks for a status update on where he’s at in 2018.

He lets us in on what it’s like to tour with Stormzy down under and discusses the importance of being an independent artist, as well as giving us a taste of what to expect from the show tomorrow night.

The rapper and producer, who has been making waves Internationally with last year’s ‘Mood Forever EP’ also gave us the honour of premiering his brand new track ‘Different League’.

Produced by MiracleTheMagnificent and mixed by his regular collaborator DOPAM!NE, the track was partially recorded while out in Europe and sees him separating himself from the lower divisions.

Listen to the track below, and prepare for a high octane performance…

– – –

– – –

You made some big waves on an international level last year, what are you hoping to achieve in 2018?

We’re in Europe at the start of 2018. That’s an achievement on its own..

How would you describe the scene in Sydney to those of us who have never been?

Growing, and we’re at the forefront to make sure it’s all the way lit!

What is the reception like for British artists like Stormzy – who you’ve supported in Australia – out there?

It’s total madness! His fans are totally mental!

You’ve said before that people thought you were from the UK when you dropped ‘Everyday’, why do you think that was?

My accent maybe, or the vibe of the video perhaps. I sound like I could be from anywhere in the world, that’s what makes me different, and I like being different.

Do you follow the UK rap and grime scenes – if so who do you like from over here?

UK rap scene is proper sick! I’ve heard a few tunes from key players like Stormzy, AJ Tracey, Skepta, Section Boyz. My boy from back home put me on to C Biz, 6IXVI, and a few other artists out here too! They hard!

What does being an independent artist mean to you?

Freedom perhaps, because no amount of money can make me compromise on my art. I’m the artist here, so it’s important I show people that you don’t need the money to create. Give me the money and I’ll show you what I can do with it, not the other way round!

I don’t want anyone having a say in how to create my piece. It’s not just my art that way, it becomes a product of a label as such. In saying that, I love collaborating with other artists.

What should fans expect from your performance at Clash’s launch party on January 30th at Ace Hotel?

Every show is slightly different… It’ll definitely be energetic.

Billboard: Trippie Redd “Hellboy” (Official Video)

via Billboard
words by Natalie Maher

Following up the success of last week’s “18,” Trippie Redd released his music video for “Hellboy” on Monday (Jan. 29), his latest visual installment with the 88rising collective.

The video for “Hell Boy” is notably melodic cut from Trippie Redd’s October mixtape A Love Letter to You 2. Its visuals are a fittingly trippy and futuristic video game-like story, featuring the rapper fighting off some kind of demon in a warehouse in what seems to be in Japan. The video’s aesthetics are continued theme for Redd, who has called on Peter Chen, BRTHR, and Cole Bennett for similarly grainy, colorful, and sci-fi inspired visuals.

The most recent video is produced by mamesjao — a member of 88rising, the company focused on bringing Asian culture to the states, mainly through music. Last week, Redd released the video for “18,” which featured Rich Brian (formerly Rich Chigga) and Joji, both members of the collective.

Watch the full video for “Hellboy” below.

Lyrical Lemonade: Anfa Rose ‘She Been Waiting II’

via Lyrical Lemonade
words by Elliot Montanez

We have yet another Lyrical Lemonade debut taking place today, and this time around it’s for Anfa Rose’s brand new EP titled “She Been Waiting II”. I truly had no idea what to expect coming into this offering because I had never heard of Anfa before, but I must admit that everything on this tape was sonically pleasing and he has a unique sound that should not be overlooked. There is a total of six records on this EP, and it seems as if it gets better with each and every one. Stream this brand new tape below and let me know if you like it in the comments!

New York Times: Hear What Music Will Sound Like in 2018

via New York Times

The Popcast is hosted by Jon Caramanica, a pop music critic for The New York Times. It covers the latest in pop music criticism, trends and news.

This week, just before the Grammy Awards celebrate the year that just concluded, the Popcast is celebrating the year that’s yet to unfold.

Listen here.

This week’s episode features music from nearly 20 artists the pop music staff of The New York Times — Mr. Caramanica, the chief critic Jon Pareles, the reporter Joe Coscarelli and the editor Caryn Ganz — are most looking forward to hearing more from in 2018: promising punk music, intricate bluegrass, flamboyant hip-hop and much more.

But wait, there’s more! The Popcast also welcomed staffers from other sections of The Times: Choire Sicha, Joanna Nikas and Bonnie Wertheim from the Styles desk; culture department news assistant Andrew Chow; and the software engineer James Thomas. The list includes Soccer Mommy, Bad Bunny, Ssion, Brent Faiyaz, I’m With Her, Lizzo and more — listen to a playlist of songs included in this episode below.

Highsnobiety: Sean Miyashiro Interview

88rising’s Founder Talks His Label’s Humble Beginnings & Rapid Rise

via Highsnobiety
words by 

At the very first concert featuring the full roster of 88rising’s artists at Indonesia’s Djarkarta Warehouse Project Festival, we caught up with founder Sean Miyashiro for the full story behind one of 2018’s most vital labels.

In a modest room just behind one of the three spacious stages at Djakarta Warehouse Project, there’s a palpable sense of excitement. Chengdu-based rap quartet Higher Brothers toss handfuls of Indonesian Rupiah through the air, dancing their way through falling leaflets of red 100,000 bills as though life is one prolonged music video scene. Keith Ape and Brian Imanuel (formerly Rich Chigga) look on with naked amusement.

Shortly before 88rising’s resident underground darling, Joji, takes the stage, Imanuel’s mother and father are ushered into the room – they come bearing a generously frosted cake and the loving pride of parents who have borne witness to the success of their progeny. “Group picture,” someone proclaims and everyone huddles together for a quick Polaroid snap. An outside observer would be forgiven for thinking the scene unfolding had been repeated dozens of times at dozens of shows before. However, the truth it’s their first time performing as a collective, and the first time a few of the artists are meeting in person.

Coordinating a complete tour of Asia with headlining slots at two of the continent’s biggest music festivals (It’s the Ship! and Djakarta Warehouse Party), is the kind of learning curve that can make or break a team, particularly one as small and scrappy as 88rising. It was only in the last year the company’s founder, Sean Miyashiro, came to the conclusion that scaling up – which included expanding the team from a staff of three to 30 and opening an office in Shanghai, an addition to the New York and LA arms – was a necessity.

Yet this autonomy and self-reliance is also precisely why the company has been able to shape itself into a hybrid entity that exists somewhere between a traditional music label, media platform and marketing agency. “From a business perspective it’s been a day by day thing,” Miyashiro admits. “We’ve learned a lot and been through a lot of different circumstances but we have a lot of incredibly smart people in the organization.”

A former veteran of Vice’s now-defunct Thump platform, Miyashiro launched 88rising in 2015 as a means to give Asian-American creators additional visibility and support. “It was really the next iteration of something that I started very casually called Catch Only, which was really just me managing a couple of artists who were my friends. At the same time, ‘It G Ma’ and all that good stuff was happening. Keith Ape was really starting to resonate. He was actually a huge trailblazer in terms of being one of the first Asian hip-hop artists to really pick up steam in the States. We were working with him and at the same time I was trying to figure out how we could build a home to elevate, showcase and spotlight not necessarily exclusively Asian creators, but more like our homies and the people we like.”

Despite the company’s intentions, Miyashiro’s proximity to Asian-American creators predates its inception. “When people talk to me about how I got into hip-hop, it’s like ‘how could I not be?’ I grew up in the Bay Area and had an extremely eclectic ethnic group of friends, I think that’s just kind of the Asian-American experience.” Miyashiro’s relationship with Los Angeles-based, Argentinian-born Korean rapper Jonathan Park (known as Dumbfoundead) is initially what led him to Keith Ape. Park, who was already a fan of Keith’s work, showed Miyashiro the “It G Ma” rapper’s music videos and encouraged the two to connect.

“I thought he was dope so I just hit him up and we started talking. That’s literally how it happened. I never said, ‘Hey, I want to manage you’ or anything. It was more like, ‘Yo, this shit is tight and I want to help in any way I can.’ The first thing we did was bring him to the States to do SXSW,” explained Miyashiro. There’s a similar story with every other artist 88rising has added to its roster. First, there’s discovery (which often comes courtesy of Miyashiro’s expansive network), followed by honest conversation and a mutual desire to test the boundaries of creative expression.

Brian Imanuel, who made his viral debut as Rich Chigga with the song “Dat $tick,” was initially received as a gimmick rapper, but Miyashiro immediately saw more. The music video sees a pink Polo and fanny pack-bedecked Imanuel performing at the very height of comedic irony. With all of the seriousness of your favorite 2000s rapper, he brandishes firearms, pours liquor and flexes in front of a vehicle better suited for soccer moms than picking up women. The video’s borderline slapstick sensibility combined with Imanuel’s genuinely clever wordplay fascinated the internet, racking up over 82 million views.

“It was clear to me from the jump he was a genius in his own mind. He had this general perspective of the world and his comedic stuff on Twitter was amazing,” Miyashiro said. The two kept in close correspondence and Miyashiro encouraged Imanuel to pursue his interest in music outside of the frame of comedy. The result of their joint efforts soon yielded the 21 Savage-featuring single, “Crisis,” which was followed up with “See Me,” on January 1. Shortly after, Imanuel officially announced the name change that seemingly completed the quiet metamorphosis from viral sensation to viable musician.

To some extent, Miyashiro’s role within 88rising isn’t very different than what an A&R might do within the confines of a traditional label, but the company separates itself through a singular understanding of the global cultural landscape. The platform takes a holistic approach to artist development, working collaboratively with each talent to realize their vision rather than attempting to conform them to a particular market. In doing so, 88rising has positioned itself as a de facto evangelist of a kind of unfiltered East meets West pop culture experience that previously felt out of reach to mainstream audiences. The visibility and popularity of 88’s roster has also worked to shift Western perceptions of the popular music terrain on the Asian continent. Where American audiences once associated hyper-sleek, talent agency-manufactured K-pop and J-pop groups as indicative of the full catalogue of music offerings, 88rising’s underground-facing, DIY-spirited musical expressions have illuminated the true diversity of the scene.

“People might not know it but there are actually a shitload of Asian artists making rap music, especially in Asia. I think we’re working because we’re making stuff that resonates from a music perspective and as an overall brand. You go onto our platform and enter a universe of imagination. There’s a universe of people and a universe of shit that we just love and want to showcase. That’s where it starts and begins for us and that’s why it works.”

XXL: Kris Wu, Rich Brian, Joji, Trippie Redd & Baauer “18” (Official Video)

via XXL
words by C. Vernon Coleman II

Kris Wu continues to make noise in the U.S. and now he brings together the posse cut, “18,” featuring Trippie ReddRich Brian formerly known as Rich Chigga, Baauer and Joji.

The BRTHR-directed video for the track is extremely colorful and extremely lit. The artists are surrounded by Harajuku girls, while pulsating lights and quick cuts add to the manic camera work. Trippie Redd floats, suspended in the air, rocking wings for the majority of his verse on the turnt track.

Kris Wu has been gaining a following in the States. He recently joined forces with Travis Scott on the song, “Deserve.”Last month, he dropped the video for his song, “B.M.”

In a recent interview on Ebro’s Beats 1 Radio show, he revealed he is working on new music with Pharrell. “I got a chance to work with him like two months ago because he was doing something in China. And then I became part of the Beats family and they knew Pharrell was going to China, and then he was doing a song for this event in China and he wanted a feature on the track,” Kris explains.

He adds, “So they reached out and said can you do a feature in Chinese and I went to the studio and met Pharrell and I wrote the little verse for him feature on that and then that’s kind of where our relationship started and then right now he’s probably going to produce something for me.”

Big things popping.

Watch the new “18” video featuring Kris Wu, Trippie Redd, Rich Brian Kris Wu, Joji and Baauer below.

Genius: Higher Brothers ‘Journey to the West – EP’

Read All The Lyrics To Higher Brothers’ New EP ‘Journey To The West’

via Genius
words by Chris Mench

Following the release of their Ski Mask The Slump God-assisted single “Flo Rida”late last year, Chinese rap group Higher Brothers is back with a new EP. Journey to the West is the group’s first project since they released their debut album Black Cab in 2017, and it features a second Ski Mask verse on “Rich Bitch.” The project also includes production from Smokepurpp.

Higher Brothers is represented by 88rising, the same company that promotes Keith ApeRich Brian, and Joji. The latter two artists recently linked up with Chinese star Kris Wu as well as Trippie Redd and Hits of the 2000s [TOP 64] for the new single “18.”

Check out all the lyrics to Higher Brothers’ ‘Journey to the West’ EP below:

1. “Flo Rida” feat. Ski Mask The Slump God
2. “Room Service”
3. “Chanel”
4. “Rich Bitch” feat. Ski Mask The Slump God

Billboard: Sean Miyashiro Interview

88Rising Founder Sean Miyashiro on Label’s Rapid Success Bringing Asian Acts to Western Audiences

via Billboard
words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland

88rising’s inaugural group show (and the kick-off to their Asia tour) was scheduled to happen aboard It’s the Ship! The floating festival, which bills itself as the continent’s largest dance party at sea, would, indeed, have been an idyllically turnt backdrop for a first-time hangout. Four days and three nights of warm saline breeze, maritime hijinks and enough alcohol to incapacitate a pod of blue whales sounds like a natural fit for a label whose diverse soundscape can support both the perpetually energized stylings of Chengdu-based rap foursome Higher Brothers and the aqueous, lo-fi electro R&B crooning of Osaka-born New York resident Joji.

Yet as such things often unfold, everything did not go according to plan. At the last minute, Joji was unable to make it.

Attempt number two occurred in Jakarta, the home city of another 88rising signee Rich Brian — who officially made the change from his initial stage name, Rich Chiggain the infant days of 2018 — and this time around, 88’s initial label-wide link-up was a rollicking success. Collectively, the artists headlined the behemoth Ismaya Live-organized Djakarta Warehouse Project, which sees between 70,000 and 80,000 attendees over the course of three days. It was there that members of the 88rising team — some of whom had seen very little rest — got to celebrate their hard-won moment of triumph that included stage dives from the Higher Brothers, swooning fans screaming for more of Joji and a massive sing-along to Keith Ape’s “It G Ma.”

“We’ve always been very strong at the creative part, but we also wanted to make sure we were checking the box on execution,” explained 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro of the label’s meteoric rise in 2017. “I think we’ve tightened that up… We’ve gone from a staff of three people to 30 people,” he continued, speaking from the label’s Los Angeles office. Three years ago, Miyashiro could never have imagined that the casual collective of artists and friends he’d gathered under the informal umbrella of Catch Only would coalesce into a record label-cum-creative agency with offices in New York, Shanghai and L.A. “I still can’t believe we hired five people in Shanghai in 18 months. I never thought we were going to have people working full-time in China and definitely not this soon.”

Inside the 88rising tour
Dipika Walia
Inside the 88rising tour

In a time where even legacy music labels are being forced to restructure to compete with the demands of the digital age and the autonomy it affords artists, the rapid ascension of 88rising feels truly unprecedented. Particularly because 37-year-old Miyashiro is far from your traditional artist manager, or even label owner. In fact, it’s something he fell into through a combination of casual accident and a love of music. “I’d say this all started around 2015. At the time I didn’t know what I was doing, all of the artists were just my friends,” Miyashiro confessed with a laugh.

These early forays into management combined with a long-term stint at Vice, where he helped to launch the platform’s now defunct electronic music platform Thump, gave him an eagle-eyed understanding of the digital landscape. “I’d never had experience launching a media brand, it was invaluable. I learned everything at Vice because they were so aggressive in the way they worked. They had smart people that I worked with closely to curate the cadence and quality of Thump. Even just having to learn the production process and picking up a camera and going and shooting something was absolutely critical.”

While the knowledge Miyashiro gleaned from these experiences helps provide the backbone of 88rising’s creative strategy, he’s also quick to point out the inherent ability of his artists to create their own viral content. For instance, Keith Ape, the label’s first true breakout star blazed a trail in the American market with “It G Ma,”an infectiously bouncy, trap-flavored single that arguably overshadowed Atlanta rapper OG Maco’s similar track, “U Guessed It.” Released in 2015, the video currently has over 49 million views and spawned an official remix with A$AP Fergand Waka Flocka Flame, as well as one-off remakes from Anderson .Paak and Father of Awful Records.

Inside the 88rising tour
Dipika Walia
Inside the 88rising tour

Rich Brian simultaneously captivated and puzzled with his viral debut “Dat $tick,” a troll-tastically comedic hip-hop effort underpinned by an undeniable talent for wordplay, and an ear for production. The self-released accompanying music video currently boasts over 82 million views. Joji’s history shows a similar familiarity with Internet culture. Before the forlorn melodies we’re familiar with today, he created the absurdist persona Filthy Frank, who is responsible for the original “Harlem Shake” video, which features a costumed Joji and three similarly attired friends dancing along to Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”. The video went on to inspire hundreds of copycats and meme responses.

With so much natural talent under one umbrella, Miyashiro’s job is less about shaping the artists than it is working with creators who already have a strong point of view. Essentially, the 88rising team uses their varied backgrounds as a braintrust to execute each musician’s vision at the highest level. “Nobody knows exactly what they want to do all of the time,” Miyashiro admits, “but we talk every day and we view the process as a true partnership. The music comes first and once we’ve got that we think about the visuals and try to figure out a way to amplify it by telling their story in the most unique way. We get our whole team involved so there’s a lot of people working every single day just making sure things move along. We’re small but extremely efficient and extremely, extremely scrappy.”

88rising’s robust YouTube channel is perhaps the best example of this. Despite the leanness of the team behind it, it has garnered over a million subscribers and manages to provide updates at a frequent enough pace to whet their appetites. In 2018, Miyashiro and only plans to up the ante across the board. “We want to have our own festival in Asia so people can really experience our vision. We’re also doing a U.S. event series called Double Happiness, which is rad because we’re going all in. It’s a truly immersive experience on a production and art level. I’m just excited for people to see more. All of these guys are so talented. I know that’s cliche but I truly believe the reason we’re all working together is because they’re all special.”

Noisey: Higher Brothers “Flo Rida” (Official Video)

Here’s Higher Brothers and Ski Mask the Slump God’s Odd “Flo Rida” Video

via Noisey

You’ll probably end up hearing a lot about Higher Brothers in 2018, the four kids out of Chengdu, China, who grew out of their local rap scene to garner praise from some of trap’s biggest names, rack up millions of YouTube plays, and score major endorsement deals. They make brash, unfussy trap music, mostly jumping back and forth between English and Sichuanese. Late last year, they collaborated with Ski Mask the Slump God—who was born 8,500 miles away in Florida—on a track called “Flo Rida,” a half-deranged song that uses Evian as a status symbol. Today it’s been given a suitably strange video, directed by James Mao. We’d explain it, but around the part where Higher Brothers start throwing money around an inflatable unicorn on a green-screened apocalyptic beach, we realized that was impossible. So, watch it at the top of the page.

Higher Brothers also released a four-track EP called Journey to the West earlier today, which you can listen to here. And they’re coming to the US for a tour of the same name in February. Take a look at those dates below.

Feb 02 – Vancouver, BC – Fortune Nightclub (EARLY ALL AGES SHOW)
Feb 02 – Vancouver, BC – Fortune Nightclub (LATE 19+ SHOW)
Feb 03 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
Feb 07 – San Francisco – The Warfield
Feb 10 – Los Angeles, CA – Shrine Expo Hall
Feb 13 – Houston, TX – House of Blues (Bronze Peacock)
Feb 14 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues (Cambridge Room)
Feb 17 – Atlanta, GA – The Loft
Feb 19 – Washington DC – U Street Music Hall
Feb 20 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
Feb 21 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
Feb 23 – Chicago, IL – Subterranean
Feb 25 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground