88RISING HEAD ON TOUR WITH RICH BRIAN, KEITH APE, AND MORE
A music collective compromised of talented Asian rappers and artists, 88Rising has proven to be one of the best recruiters for talent. Their artists are equally entertaining as they are talented, with people like Joji, Keith Ape, Higher Brothers, Rich Brian and more. With their first ever U.S. tour, the group visited Houston and performed at the newly built Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land on Oct. 20th.
The tour was announced after the collective released their hit summer single, “Midsummer Madness” from their album Head in The Clouds, which received tremendous love from fans all over the world to a point where a #MidsummerMadness challenge was created, rewarding the person with the most likes a pair of free tickets to the show in their city.
Starting right on time and the first out of six performers for the night was August 08. With amazing set design and visuals, the newly rising star performed songs like “Lately” and “Funeral,” giving a short story he heard from a friend where girls were rumored to put period blood into lasagna to keep their boyfriends in love with them. What disturbed me was the fact that I had heard that story before too.
Up next was Kohh, a rapper from Japan who wasn’t shy about this being his first time in Houston. He opened up with his song “Dirt Boys,” the crowd jumping and rapping along. Even though I had no idea what he was saying, his charisma was contagious as he hopped from one side of the stage to the other. Explosion sound effects would go off every time the crowd replied with “Boys!” after he would yell “Dirt!”. He followed up with Keith Ape’s “It G Ma,” turning up the energy in the crowd tenfold as everyone screamed “SKRRT SKRRT SKRRT!” Before closing off with a melancholic autotuned number, he asked for all the lights to be turned off to symbolize “the darkest night of his life” as smoke filled the stage and a single purple light illuminated from behind him.
Following Kohh was Indonesian singer/songwriter Niki who opened up with her famous song “Newsflash.” A mix of contemporary R&B and pop, the talented artist has a lot of soul for someone so small. Her voice, strong and soothing, even reminded me of Sinead Harnett. I couldn’t help but be impressed as she performed “See U Never,” a song dedicated to an ex she hates. She followed it up with a slower number called “Chilly.” Then, she asked if the crowd would snap for her as she sang “Dancing with the Devil.” As flowery visuals danced behind her, “I Like U,” a sweet song about admitting your feelings to your crush, followed, before she finished with her ode to women, the empowerment song “Warpaint.”
Up next was Chinese rap group Higher Brothers who started off their performance by chanting 7/11 along with the crowd before performing their songs “7-11”, “Chanel” and “World Star”. I had heard of Higher Brothers before and took a liking to their music videos as well as the chemistry they had with each other, but was underwhelmed by their performance as a whole. While I was in love with the crazy amazing visuals – from retro anime clips to a traditional goChineseinese dragon circling the screen as they finished with “Made in China”, I was turned off by the constant slang and “we turning the f**k up”s that kept being thrown around.
Joji performed next and like his true “Filthy Frank” weirdness, came out riding on a scooter before singing “Demons.” He kept making the crowd laugh with his random ad libs, saying “bit*h” in between verses and joking about “fake energy” before singing “Yeah Right.” A sweetheart underneath all the dark circles and equally dark music videos, Joji played a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with the crowd, throwing a shirt to the sections that one before singing “Head in the Clouds.” He followed up with “Test Drive”, screaming “unblock me, bit*h!” here and there before closing up with my favorite, “Slow Dancing in the Dark.”
The final performer for the night was Indonesian rapper, Rich Brian. He asks if everyone is ready to turn up and the crowd puts their hands up, jumping up and down as he rapped to “Bankroll.” He asked if anyone listened to his new album and asked the audience what their favorite song was, getting “Druggy,” “Attention,” and others before performing “Cold” and starts dancing the infamous fortnite dance moves.
Very down to earth and just as funny in person as he is online, he cracked a few jokes and passed water to a fan while asking if anyone in the crowd was in a relationship or had an ex they hated. The crowd screamed in response and Brian laughs, saying “Well, f**k that person. Everything that happens, happens for a reason and whatever happens is now history,” before performing his song “History.” The crowd turned on their flashlights as he performed “Glow Like Dat” and “See Me” before the beat drops as he closed with his viral song that put him on the map, “Dat $tick”.
The show ended with a performance from all the artists for “Midsummer Madness,” off the 88Rising album. Even after the song ended, the crowd continued to sing along without music.
The concert overall was a great experience, as well as the turnout. It’s great to see a cross-genre between different cultures and see music become a common ground for everyone to enjoy, regardless of what part of the world you come from.
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Photographs by Leslie Campos