Review: 88rising Is an Unstoppable Force

88rising is renowned for their ambitious projects and collaborations, but their latest tour, the 88 Degrees and Rising tour, was probably their most ambitious yet. Known for their ensemble of talented Asian and Asian-American artists, the collective and label quickly garnered the attention of the masses with their viral and quality content. For their first ever label tour, 88rising went all out, showing that they’re an unstoppable force with a plethora of talent. Their show at Aragon Ballroom was a testament to that.

The show’s lineup included a roster of diverse hip-hop and R&B acts from both the US and Asia. 88rising’s lineup featured Don Krez, Sen Morimoto, August 08, KOHH, NIKI, Higher Brothers, Joji, and Rich Brian, making the concert seem more like a full-length music festival.

The label’s international guests really shined during their sets. KOHH, a Japanese rapper known for hits like “Dirt Boys,” was one of many artists that really left an impression thanks to his overflowing energy and stage presence. A highlight of his set was when he performed his featured segment in “It G Ma.” Many fans of 88rising and Keith Ape were wondering if the South Korean rapper would make an appearance at the show, especially considering that he recently released his new album, Born Again, only a few days prior. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. However, that didn’t stop the crowd shouting along to the lyrics of the song, a language barrier basically non-existent.

The other international acts also left a lasting impact with their individual styles and flare. NIKI, an Indonesian R&B singer and the only female artist currently under the label, was another crowd favorite. Her smooth, velvety vocals soothed the crowd through songs like “Vintage,” “I LIKE U,” and “Warpaint.” In contrast to NIKI’s more laid back set, Higher Brothers, a Chinese rap collective, brought back the hype with their tracks “7-11” and “Made in China.”

The heavy hitters of the night were Rich Brian and Joji, both musicians that fans were incredibly excited to see. Joji performed first and made an impression right from the start as he confidently ran onto the stage wearing a propeller hat. Joji, who was infamous for his Youtube comedy stunts as Pink Guy and Filthy Frank, has since evolved into bonafide artist. His new persona shined during his set when he performed his songs “demons,” “will he,” “i don’t wanna waste my time,” and “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK.” Despite the more serious nature of his music, his lighthearted and goofy personality seeped through every now and then through his intermittent outbursts between lyrics and random breaks where he juggled and played rock, paper, scissors with the crowd.

Last, but not least, closing out the concert was Rich Brian. The Indonesian rapper and global internet sensation showed that he’s come a long way since “Dat $tick.” His expert command of the stage and impressive vocal control during his rap showed that he’d really grown as a rapper. Brian’s setlist included his hits “Gospel,” “Glow Like Dat,” and “Cold,” as well as his latest single, “History.” And of course, Brian ended his set with his viral hit “Dat $tick.” Following Brian’s set, the whole crew came back on stage for one last song. The group ended the night with a lively performance of “Midsummer Madness” from the label’s summer album, concluding the night on a happy and wholesome note.

For many people in attendance, it seemed like this show was exactly what they were waiting for. The show was a welcomed change of pace for fans who didn’t always get to see themselves represented in popular media, especially since it’s still quite a rarity to see Asian and Asian-American artists highlighted in the mainstream American music. All in all, 88rising’s 88 Degrees and Rising concert was a celebration of music, culture, and diversity.

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Pearl Shin