Sean Miyashiro talks 88rising, Asians in the Media, and Harvard

On Feb. 22, the Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association hosted a panel discussion with 88rising, an up-and-coming media brand that features Asian and Asian-American artists. Following the discussion, The Harvard Crimson sat down with 88rising’s founder and CEO Sean Miyashiro to talk about what the company has overcome, and what’s in store for its future.

The Harvard Crimson: In an interview with Pitchfork, you described the initial idea for 88rising as VICE for Asian culture. What do you see 88rising as, and what is 88rising trying to promote?

Sean Miyashiro: If I look back, that’s how I thought of the company in the beginning, and that’s certainly changed. VICE typically covers a lot of different things, where we’re more on the creation side. Obviously, the music has really taken precedent in how people perceive us and what people are falling in love with us for.

It’s not easy to continually put out good stuff in music and evolve and stay on top. It’s very serious, we work on it every single day. I can’t see too far into the future, but I can say that our brand comes first, and everything that 88 is. We want to take our brand from more of a digital online experience, and transcend that into different mediums which include film and live events around the world. Those are things that are immediate aspirations. It’s all about moving our brand into different mediums.

THC: Speaking of film, I saw the promotional video of the 88rising crew on the Asia tour and I loved the chemistry between the artists. Can you talk about the dynamic between personalities like Brian, Keith Ape, and Joji?

SM: The chemistry is amazing. I think we’re super fortunate to have that kind of chemistry. It has all happened very naturally. We’re extremely fortunate, because everybody is obviously an individual, but somehow everyone has meshed really well together. Everyone really respects and loves and is passionate about what we’re doing. Whenever we get together, it’s a great time.

THC: What project or collaboration in the last year has got you the most excited?

SM: Music is one of the biggest and most influential things in the world. There are quite a bit of artists that we have, and all are starting to put out content that people love under one banner. One thing that I’m extremely proud of is how our music is driving so many positive thoughts around our brand, and people being proud of it.

We had a show in LA last weekend and there were 5500 people there. What I thought was really unique was that for all the opening acts everybody cheered their asses off for, even though they weren’t super familiar with the artists. Even though these are new artists, everyone was so supportive of everyone who is with us. The 88rising crew is really meaningful to people, and that’s one thing that I’m super proud of. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Charli XCX, she came to the show, and she pulled me aside and said, “Dude this is a fucking moment.” So many people came up to me that day and told me that when they grew up, none of this ever existed. Now we can look to something and say, “This shit is cool.” When I was growing up, there was nothing to look to. No living breathing examples in entertainment or music or anything.

THC: 88rising represents an outlet where Asians and Asian-Americans can be represented in a way that is completely counter to the norm. 88rising members like Brian, Joji and Higher Brothers are so cool and on top of it. It’s really empowering to see that. It’s empowering to see a song about WeChat [a Chinese multi-purpose social media app]. It was empowering to see at my predominantly white high school how many people loved Rich Brian’s “Dat $tick.” When starting 88rising, was a goal of yours to give Asian culture a platform in a new media landscape?

SM: Yeah! When I started, I knew that there was so much cool Asian shit and I wanted to build a home for that. Over the last 18 months we’ve gotten Higher Brothers, Rich, Joji, and we’re signing more people. Everyone is like-minded and an individual and a star in their own right.

You know, Brian has a tremendously engaged Asian fanbase, they really love him. But it’s cool as you said, a lot of people love Brian. It’s all races and they’re coming from all over the world and supporting him. That’s how you know you’re really onto something. At our New York show there were so many non-Asian kids buying merch and immediately putting it on. It was just wild.

THC: I am only 18 years old, but it’s something I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. Companies like 88rising are creating a world where the next generation won’t look at their Asian identity as something to be ashamed of, but rather as a badge of honor.

SM: Thank you so much. Today meant so much to us. I really didn’t know what to expect, and it was really awesome. I’ll be honest, I was nervous last night. When I got to the hotel I had a little bit of trouble sleeping. I’ve never done something like this before. There were so many people that came. There was a lot of laughter, there was a lot of energy, and there were tons of questions. We went way overtime. Once we closed, so many people came to the front and spent time with us. It was special. I can’t sugar-coat it. It was very special, I’m still buzzing over it.

We just came off the back of thousands of people coming to our shows, but today was amazing because we were really able to have a dialogue with fans. Some of the people who came to the chat took a bus from NYC just to come to the show. My parents even asked me how it went. It was badass, I enjoyed it so much.

THC: Any closing thoughts or announcements you want to make to the fans of 88rising?

SM: Today was such an amazing moment for us, for being able to have a dialogue with such passionate and bright students at this amazing university. It was as much of a pleasure for us as we hope it was for the students. This year we’re gonna do a lot. We’re gonna work twice as hard. We just wanna keep making everybody proud.

—Staff writer Raj Karan S. Gambhir can be reached at


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