The rise of 88rising’s Head in the Clouds II


Michelle Lin

The mass media company, 88rising, consisting of artists such as Rich Brian, Joji, NIKI, the Higher Brothers and August 08, released their second album, Head in the Clouds II on October 11, 2019. The collaborative group gave fans a total of sixteen songs, ranging from rap, pop, and R&B. The album features other hit artists, Jackson Wang, Gold Link, and Swae Lee.

Michelle Lin, Staff

With the rise of Asian representation in today’s media, the record label 88rising not only gives Asian artists a place in the pop industry but also in the hip-hop industry. Created four years ago by manager Sean Miyashiro, the label signed Indonesian rapper Rich Brian, half-Japanese singer Joji, Chinese rap quartet Higher Brothers and Korean rapper Keith Ape. As their music rose in popularity, they later signed Indonesian singer NIKI, American rapper August 08 and Korean hip-hop singer Zion. T.  

The members in 88rising released their first debut single as a group, “Midsummer Madness” in 2018; it went viral, gaining more than 40 million views on YouTube. After their debut album in 2018 titled Head in the Clouds became a major success, the group released their second album Head in the Clouds II, on October 11, 2019. 

Head in the Clouds II features artists from all over the music industry: Rich Brian, Joji, NIKI, August 08, Higher Brothers, Swae Lee, Major Lazer, Jackson Wang, Stephanie Poetri, Generations from Exile Tribe, Goldlink, Don Krez, Barney Bones and Chung Ha. Months before the release of their collaborative album, 88rising teased their fans with the first song Indigo by NIKI, which blew up on the musical app TikTok. On October 8, members of the group each released an official trailer of the album on their social media, officially confirming the completed 16 song tracklist. 

Starting with an ‘80s style electronic pop song, “These Nights” by Rich Brian and Korean singer Chung Ha, and ending with Rich Brian’s fast beat solo rap “Gold Coast”, the album provides listeners with a multitude of different genres. The sophomore album definitely differentiates from its first album as it brings much more diversity from strings to electric rhythms, allowing singers to show off their dynamic ranges. Even NIKI, a usual contemporary R&B artist, experiences her genres in the album as she goes from “Strange Land”, a smooth acoustic vocal chorus, to a strong electronic beat with La La Lost You”. 

In Head in the Clouds II, the artists find themselves adopting a reoccurring theme of confused love. In the catchy, soft pop song “Calculator,” August 08 sings the chorus:

“Stuff’s not addin’ up

I think my calculator’s broken

I’m not meant for love,”

Meanwhile, NIKI also sings about her confusion through a dramatic ballad in her song with Rich Brian, “Shouldn’t Couldn’t Wouldn’t”:

“Shouldn’t be this hard

You couldn’t DTR

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we could stay friends? But we

Shouldn’t, you know what I

Couldn’t, ‘nough’s enough

If I had your heart, it wouldn’t be this hard,”

The love songs leave the fans with an emotional sensation as they listen through the album. However, the group of artists also makes sure to include not just sappy love songs, but also exciting love songs. A personal favorite, “Tequila Sunrise” with Jackson Wang, Higher Brothers, Gold Link and August 08, makes heads bop to the beat as they sing along with the catchy lyrics of the song. With almost one million plays already, the song brings together Chinese listeners,  hip-hop listeners and pop listeners all at the same time.

Despite that, critics have compared the second album to the first, labeling it as disappointing; album number two brings a creative, diverse type of music to 88rising’s discography, a completely different perspective than the first album. Three songs on the album currently hold a spot as number 1, 3, and 5 in China’s streaming music charts while the album positions itself at the top 50s on the US iTunes chart. With the current success of Head in the Clouds II, fans look forward to another rumored collaborative project with Murda Beatz, titled 88Murda


The Chant’s Grade: A+