When it comes to 88rising, the first question is: What is 88rising? Depending on what you read and what you listen to, you’d be hard-pressed to have an answer that doesn’t have the baggage of follow-on questions. After speaking with member August 08 (real name August Grant), a rising star in his own right (check out his 2018 album Father), the one term that kept popping up to describe the musical collective was “family.”
“I think we’re all a family; every identity becomes one and that’s how we present it to the world,” August 08 says proudly. “88Rising is a family, so no one is higher or lesser than and no one’s role is less than. We all work together, we’re all producing together, and we all work to build each other up.”
88rising’s success and, more importantly, continued growth is as much a reflection of how globalized hip hop, R&B, and low-fi pop music truly is in 2018, as it is a testament to the principles driving this beehive of driven creatives. Their 2018 showcase album, Head in the Clouds, was an introduction of different styles, perspectives, and voices that successfully reoriented American music through Asian identity. The result was something of a coming out party for members Rich Brian, Joji, August 08, Keith Ape, Higher Brothers, Kohh, NIKI, and Don Krez.
“We’re all creatives…I think that’s how we were all able to work together so well and come up with a project so diverse. August 08 says about the creation of Head in the Clouds. ”88rising gave us the opportunity to be ourselves but also be a family by putting us in different studios but in the same space.”
Whatever 88rising is, and whatever it will become, pales in comparison to what it represents: cohesive positive energy in the name of music. In that respect, this group deserves your ears.
88rising’s album Head in the Clouds is out now. 88rising is performing at The Theater at MGM National Harbor in Maryland on October 9 and the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on October 14.
Brightest Young Things: Hey man, what’s up. Where are you guys right now?
August 08: Man, we’re chillin’ backstage right now at Pier 17 [in New York City]. This venue is beautiful; it overlooks the water.
BYT: Well, I feel bad taking you away from that [haha].
August 08: Nah, man not at all. We’re chillin. I’m super happy to get on the phone with you.
BYT: Bet, I appreciate that. For people that don’t know about 88rising, how would you describe the group and what it’s about?
August 08: Honestly, like curse words dope ass shit, man. Bro, we tight as fuck, honestly. It’s hard for me to feel like there are people who haven’t seen at least something we’ve done.
But for people who don’t know us at all, I would definitely advise that you just dig in, because there’s so much content, so many beautiful things that have been created on the platforms we have.
BYT: How does 88rising find balance with managing the business side of all the content you’re making and the artists you’re developing, while maintaining cohesiveness.
August 08: I think the way we make everything make sense is by being good people and giving people great opportunities to be the best creative they can be. We try to give artists control, but we also give guidance about what they should be doing to help themselves. But whatever vision an artist has, that vision will always last.
BYT: When you think about all of the diverse artists part of 88rising, how would you describe your role? You have a really unique identity, and I’m interested how that’s integrated into the collective identity of the group.
August 08: I think we’re all a family; every identity becomes one and that’s how we present it to the world. 88Rising is a family, so no one is higher or lesser than and no one’s role is less than. We all work together, we’re all producing together, and we all work to build each other up. So, I think there is no individual personality or role. Everybody on 88 and everyone affiliated with us are visual artists, producers, and writers who know how to bring things together and how to deal with each other.
BYT: There are so many musical influences and different sonic cues that run through 88rising’s work. What sort of discussions do you have as a group when you’re putting together music and how do you incorporate different creative directions?
August 08: When we were working on Head in the Clouds album, we all got to be in the same studio at the same time. I would be in one room, NIKI would be in another room, Joji would be in another, and [Rich] Brian would in another; we were all in separate rooms on some awesome hermit-type vibes.
We’re all creatives, so I would go to Niki and be like “Niki, I think this is a fire idea for you” and we’d build that idea out. Joji would do the same thing. I think that’s how we were all able to work together so well and come up with a such a diverse project. 88rising gave us the opportunity to be ourselves, but also be a family by putting us in different studios but in the same space.
BYT: That reminds me of stories you’d hear when Kanye [West] and Jay Z were making Watch the Throne, where Kanye had different rooms all with different producers making tracks for the album.
August 08: We made the project at Kanye’s studio so that makes sense [haha].
BYT: As a group primarily made up of talented producers and artists from different Asian backgrounds, are there any hurdles the group has experienced as it continues to grow?
August 08: I’m not really Asian so I can’t really speak to that, but I got mad love for my Asian brothers and sisters in the world. What I’ve seen from the outside looking in is that, first and foremost, 88rising is a company that is bringing Asian culture to different places in America, but it’s not an exclusive company for Asian people.
88rising is a broad spectrum, and anyone can be part of 88 as long as you’re tight as fuck because that’s really the threshold. When it comes to rap culture, 88 has never been excluded and no one from the label has been excluded from rap culture because the people that have opinions of where 88 needs to be or what it needs to do don’t buy tickets. Those negative opinions stay on the Internet, and I don’t think we’re on the Internet searching for what people think or say.
BYT: You guys remind me a lot of early days Odd Future where they just had a swagger about themselves and approach their work with a “fuck everybody, we’re going to do what we want to do” mentality.
August 08: I don’t think it’s “fuck everybody” at all because we’re very inclusive and just want everybody to have a beautiful experience. We want different artists to have fun together, and not separate shit that doesn’t need to be separated.
Odd Future is dope, Tyler the Creator is dope, but I think they came at it from the perspective of “yo, we’re not accepted, so you guys have to accept us anyway.” We don’t pay attention to people that don’t mess with us, because the tickets are selling.
BYT: Looking into the future, what do you think are the next steps in 88rising’s growth? Are there any projects you guys want to do or any musical experimentation you want to play with?
August 08: The next steps are top-ten records and top-40 radio records. We want to play stadiums and put out progressively better content as time goes on. I think that’s the five-year goal; making something that’s already a dynasty an ever better dynasty. We want to build our demographic and get the whole world involved as opposed to just the culture.
BYT: As 88rising grows and brings in more artists, is there anything you look for in new artists? Or is it more of “when you know, you know” situation?
August 08: What I’ve experienced in my own process is that 88 looks for raw talent. I don’t think there’s anyone on our roster who doesn’t make beats or doesn’t write their own songs. That’s what separates 88 apart. When I first saw that I was really surprised. Everyone literally makes beats. And that’s one of the hardest processes to being a creator; being able to do things on your own.
88 seeks out artists who can do everything, and someone who can create something from scratch tends to be a better person because they’re not always relying on taking from others.
BYT: So it seems like people that come into 88rising almost have to be entrepreneurial in a sense.
August 08: 88 is a beautiful platform that can allow you to build fans and get your own thing going, but at the end of the day you have to know where you’re going specifically so you can build yourself and help build the company.
BYT: How would you characterize your fans?
August 08: Every fan I’ve experienced has been a wonderful person. At each show they’re giving us the same energy that we’re giving them; showing us love that makes us want to go out every night and show them how much we care about them.