Straight outta... China? The young Asian artists bucking hip-hop trends

Story highlights

  • Bridging East and West, 88 Rising has helped Asian rappers find an audience in America.
  • The Brooklyn hip-hop collective includes YouTube stars who racked up millions of views.

(CNN)His rhymes are reminiscent of the gangster rap of 50 Cent, but instead of a do-rag and six-pack, baby-faced teenage rapper Rich Chigga sports a pink polo and fanny pack.

Indonesian-born Rich Chigga, whose viral hit "Dat $tick" has racked up more than 50 million views online, is the principal -- and some say unlikely -- face of a new generation of edgy, young Asian hip-hop acts, whose growing popularity among US audiences is helping to subvert Asian music stereotypes.
Born Brian Imanuel, 17-year-old Rich Chigga is signed to 88 Rising, a Brooklyn-based record label responsible for acts such as Korean rapper Keith Ape, Chinese hip-hop group Higher Brothers and Joji, a Japanese-Australian producer who kicked off the Harlem Shake meme video phenomenon.
    "We want to push the culture forward," said 88 Rising head Sean Miyashiro. "We're not trying to break stereotypes or change people's mindsets. We're showing people what we can do, by doing what we do."
    Miyashiro, a Japanese-Korean Brooklynite, founded the label in early 2016 after leaving his job at Vice Media's electronic music platform Thump. "At first it's a wild visual to see, somebody Asian rapping that way, killing it in a video," said Miyashiro of the label's appeal.
    The company, which is known for its slew of massive viral video hits and collaborations with established American artists such as Ghostface Killah and Skrillex, has reached a sort of cult status among fans, especially those in Asia.
    "Our artists and our brand is the most influential in Asia because we aren't coming from some manufactured pop machine. We are the tip of the sphere of a new face of music," said Miyashiro. "The reason for that is we are the first label that actually is making impact in the West and East."