When you think about Asian influence, representation, visibility, and presence in media, most of us immediately think about 88Rising. Within the last year alone, they’ve become one of the biggest influencers in social media and the arts, supporting some of the top Asian artists out there. They’re young, influential, intelligent and slightly humorously trollish with their viral videos, news coverage and music and arts production. 88Rising is making an effort to pioneer a new wave of visibility for Asians in media.
Last weekend, Asian Junkie got to experience the culmination of that effort at 88Rising’s ‘Head In The Clouds‘ festival held in Chinatown LA at Los Angeles State Historic Park. It was touted as the first festival of its kind headlined by a diverse mix of Asian artists. Some might say KCON takes that title, however KCON is mainly Korean (with other Asian elements brought on by foreign members of groups), where as the Up in the Clouds Festival had top artists haling from Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia. Not to mention Asian and non-Asian Americans on the bill performing that day.
After fighting insane Chinatown traffic, The day started out with Diablo, Don Krez, and Sen Morimoto kicking off the festival as fans arrived, filling the park. People enjoyed the main stage while mingling through artists booths, merch booths, a food camp headed up by chef Chris Oh himself and a smattering of adorable 88 balloons and art installations.
Yung Pinch and August 08 fired up the crowd as more people poured into the park and the hot sun beat down on the crowd. August 08 being 88Rising’s up-and-coming star performed “Hopscotch“, “Civilized“, and “Funeral“, just to name a few.
Dumbfoundead took to the stage and as always absolutely dominated! Rekstizzy was killin’ it as his hype man, and they performed tracks like “Hyung” as fans screamed and jumped to the hard-hitting beats. Dummy likes to call himself washed as a rapper, but the reality is people went running to the stage just to see him live.
Laff Trax and KOHH then absolutely killed on stage as the crowd filled out nicely and people started to party hard. Seeing KOHH live is an intense experience, and he’s the epitome of Japanese rap. He wore this wild see-through tactical vest thing and no shirt on stage. It was suddenly hotter than the 90 degrees it was in the park already.
Niki took to the stage as the only woman on the lineup and sang her heart out. She stood, defiant and determined, and sang such songs as “I Like U“, “Dancing With The Devil“, “Vintage“, “Newsflash“, and “Warpaint“. Everyone was drawn to the stage the moment she took to the mic, bringing the crowd in closer to her as her strong voice took over. I was really looking forward to seeing her live, not only as an up-and-coming artist I like, but also as a woman standing strong on a lineup that was severely male dominated. She stood out and took control, and it was well worth the rush to the stage to catch her live.
Zion.T stepped on stage and fans started screaming so loud I damn near lost my hearing. Fans screamed lyrics back at him so forcefully that he laughed on stage as he sang his hits. He took the dead mics he had handed to him, with patience as they scurried to find him a live mic. Once he had that mic in his hand, it was over for everyone. “No Makeup” and “Yonghwa BRDG” stood out as fans swooned in the crowd. His voice live is like gentle ripples in a hot spring, soothing and calming. His white-hot hair stood out as he grooved and smiled on stage. There’s something deeply sexy about Korean crooners. They just own the spotlight.
We shifted from R&B for the night right into hardcore hip-hop with Higher Brothers. I’ll admit it. Sometimes I can be a hip-hop hipster. A snob. I shouldn’t be. I try to be open minded but there’s just moments in my life where I slip. Higher Brothers is one of those groups I wrote off and didn’t bother to give the time of day. Welp! They sure as hell showed me! MaSiWei, Dzknow, Psy.P, and Melo stepped into the lights and fans went absolutely nuts! Chinese flags popped up throughout the crowd and in the front row, fans spread a huge flag across the front barrier, waving as they turned up to the beat. And the beat went hard! Their flow is so smooth and complimentary as they bounced off of each other throughout songs like “Made In China“, “Trickery“, “Chanel“, “Top“, and “Young Master“. These four young men took to the mic and ratcheted up the energy, firing up the crowd as they hopped in waves that surged toward the stage. The barriers flexed under the pressure as Higher Brothers pushed on.
The lineup flyer previously released by 88Rising touted two very mysterious question marks with no clues as to who they were. Well we were about to be rewarded with the first special surprise guest of the night, and y’all, I was not prepared!
Anderson Paak brought the funk! “YES LAWD!” He yelled “YES LAWD! CAN I GET A YESSS LAWD!” into the mic as the crowd screamed it back to him. Every single human being froze and then went into action as the music started and Anderson Paak stepped up to the very edge of the stage and danced to literally his own tune. Of course, you expect to see him perform tracks like “Bubblin’” and “Till It’s Over“, but he also talked about his new music that’s ready to be dropped coming soon!
This is just the beginning because the festival was big enough to constitute two posts! So stay tuned!
Plus, this was just the start of their ‘88 Degrees & Rising Tour‘!
Thank you to 88Rising for allowing Asian Junkie to be a part of this amazing event!