88rising (formerly known as CXSHXNLY) is an artist collective that's gone worldwide, and is changing how people see musicians of an Asian background. They've just dropped their second crew album, Head In The Clouds II, following up last year's Head In The Clouds.
Produced by collective member Joji, it features members like AUGUST 08, Rich Brian, Higher Brothers, as well as guests GoldLink, Major Lazer, Swae Lee and more. It's the culmination of what's been a crazy few years for the group, including seeing Rich Brian drop his acclaimed second album, The Sailor.
The group has a philosophy that helps keep them grounded, as well as what sees them continue to grow. Speaking to Highsnobiety, founder Sean Miyashiro says his vision for the collective is simple,"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.”
The collective has helped shift perceptions of what Asian artists can sound like. The group has had the goal of pushing diversity from the start, with member Dumbfoundead telling The Hundreds back in 2015 why he joined the group. "I’ve also been an advocate for pushing more diversity in music, which also means, as far as Asians and hip-hop, especially me being one of the only Asian American artists in the states.
"It’s always rare for me to find other Asian American musicians, so when we formed CXSHXNLY, that is actually one of our main goals: to push more Asian faces, as well as anybody coming from an immigrant background, more in that forefront of the music. So, that’s kind of our mission statement and the reason I joined up with CXSHXNLY, and our roster as well."
The album sees them present a more united front, while also better showcasing the group's sound. It's clear to see what 12 months has done for the group's members, as well as demonstrate their ability to shine alongside others. It's no mean feat to hold your own with the likes of Swae Lee and Major Lazer, some of the biggest names in hip-hop and electronic, and yet, 88rising's members do it flawlessly.
Album highlights include These Nights, which sees Rich Brian's flow passed through the lens of AutoTune, presenting a new way of experiencing his sound. This contrasts with CHUNG HA's '80s-inspired pop sound. Hopscotch showcases fan-favourite Joji's flow in a somewhat-more cloud-rap style context, with his voice paired with the aforementioned Rich Brian, the duo sounding as laidback as ever.
It's easy to see Joji's influence on the album, and given he sings, raps and produces it, it's as much his baby as anyone else's. Joji is fast coming into his own as a musician, given his somewhat unconventional journey into production, but as he continues to experiment, his style will no doubt become even more distinctive.
There's no telling what 88rising will do, both collectively, and as members. More so than most hip-hop collectives, there's an emphasis on growing alongside each other, as well as individually. It's hard to pick a standout performance on Head In The Clouds II, which speaks to the group's combined ability - rather than overshadow each other, the sum of the whole is even greater than its parts. 88rising has some of the most exciting musicians in the game right now, and it's time to come along for the ride.