The Work Diary of 88rising’s Pan-Cultural Hitmaker


For this year’s Coachella festival, the music mogul Sean Miyashiro planned to produce a groundbreaking festival showcase for 88rising. His Los Angeles-based pan-Asian music company scheduled performances for Joji, a lo-fi Japanese crooner; NIKI, an Indonesian singer-songwriter; and Rich Brian, a viral Chinese-Indonesian rap star — as well as a label showcase featuring nearly 100 performers on one stage.

Then, of course, Coachella got canceled. “It was quite deflating,” Mr. Miyashiro said. “We were trying to create the most historic, once-in-a-lifetime set featuring Asian artists. It was going to be like a whole Broadway show.”

Since 2015, the San Francisco Bay Area native has helped Asian artists find mainstream Western success. 88rising’s roster of predominantly English-speaking R&B and hip-hop acts from Seoul, South Korea; Osaka, Japan; Hong Kong, and beyond has racked up American fans by the millions, with music that fits sonically with current domestic hits.

Rich Brian and Jackson Wang — a K-pop boy-band crooner gone solo — have both topped U.S. Billboard charts. Higher Brothers, a Chinese hip-hop foursome known for pairing trap beats with lyrics in Sichuanese, Mandarin and English, have collaborated with such Stateside multiplatinum rappers as Migos and Schoolboy Q. In May, 88rising’s hourslong livestream festival, Asia Rising Forever, drew an estimated eight million viewers across social media platforms.

Mr. Miyashiro compiled a workweek diary for The New York Times in late August and early September.

Interviews are conducted by email, text and phone, then condensed and edited.


8:30 a.m. Wake up to a flurry of emails and messages from never-ending group chats on five different messaging platforms in different countries. I’m pumped for this week because we have so much going on. But the first order of business is to buy four cappuccinos from a local shop, Go Get Em Tiger (one for my wife, Judy, three for me).

9 a.m. Check the WeChat app to view the final music video edit for Jackson Wang’s upcoming single, “Pretty Please.” The cut is good but it needs some color correction. I send detailed notes with exact timestamps. Jackson, who is in China, notices I’m active and FaceTimes me from the studio to give me an update on his recording sessions. It’s past midnight over there and he likely won’t leave the studio until 6 a.m.

10:30 a.m. Judy and I sit outside with Polly and Milo, our Shiba Inus, and I play her some of the new music I’m making. All of her comments make sense and she’s been right before, so I take notes and plan to make tweaks.

11:30 a.m. NIKI’s album “Moonchild” is dropping in 10 days. She and I talk about what we’ll be doing leading up to the release. We also review designs that Guess, our fashion partner, sent over; they created a collection based on her album. She says, “Oh my God! I can’t believe this!” like five times.

2 p.m. I love driving around Brentwood, taking my calls in the car. I get on with RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan and his business partner, Mustafa Shaikh, to check in on a collaboration we’re building with their company 36 Chambers. “ALWAYS RISING” is going to be a full content channel with documentaries, podcast interviews and bite-size explainer videos, all about key figures in hip-hop.

3:30 p.m. Drive around Westwood and listen to one of NIKI’s songs 14 times. I used to do the same exact thing 15 years ago: listening to songs, pretending that in another world this was my group, or my label.

7 p.m. My wife randomly suggests we watch “Back to the Future.” We order bento boxes from Ijuu the Strange Beast and watch for about 30 minutes, then it’s back to work for me.

9 p.m. I have a video meeting with some folks in Bangkok to invite a female rapper named MILLI to join one of our upcoming projects. The language barrier on this call is pretty intense but the vibes are high.

10 p.m. Hop on another Zoom call with our crew in Indonesia, which is preparing for NIKI’s release in that market. There are 12 people on the call and the amount of effort from the team there is so thorough. We are ready to blast this!

11:30 p.m. Rich Brian calls me on FaceTime from Shanghai, and we spend 20 minutes talking about nothing, then probably two minutes on what we were actually supposed to talk about, which is the release of his “DOA” music video.

1 a.m. Get in bed and watch some YouTube with Judy until she falls asleep. Once she’s asleep, it’s back to some more work, now that Asia is active. I can’t talk on the phone now, so it’s all text messages. I get into an argument about song lyrics, which is incredibly difficult to do. It’s much easier to hum or sing the lyrics to get your point across.

10 a.m. Speak to Jackson about his music video; it’s done and it’s amazing. He basically directed this video himself. We usually use director Daniel “Cloud” Campos, but because of travel restrictions, we couldn’t make that happen.

11 a.m. Have a two-hour meeting regarding Joji’s upcoming album “Nectar.” The team is working hard to make sure it has a bulletproof plan. Because of all the hype and buzz leading up to the album, there is a lot to do.

1 p.m. 88rising mainstay Dumbfoundead invited me to be a guest on his podcast, “Fun With Dumb.” We do it remotely, but right after we’re done, he comes over to walk me through his ideas for “WE STAN,” a coming-of-age film project about Korean pop fandom. We talk about the “hurry up and wait” element of the film industry, especially now.

3:30 p.m. Catch up with Steve Bartels of 12Tone Music, who works with me on distribution. I update him on all our music release schedules coming up.

6 p.m. Visit a video shoot for NIKI in Van Nuys and see executive producer Jesse Chorng and creative director Jason Ano, who have been with 88rising since the beginning. I’m happy to welcome them to L.A. The company was based in New York City for the last four years and, starting in April, about 12 people moved here, even during this pandemic, because it’s so much more efficient when we’re physically in the same place.

7 p.m. Eat pasta with Judy and, instead of revisiting “Back to the Future,” we dive into “Ozark.” I’m hooked. The amount of gamesmanship between characters has some parallels to the music industry.

10 p.m. Check in with rapper Verbal in Japan. We make plans for an upcoming video project where he and I talk to Colombian singer J Balvin about his appreciation for Japanese Modern architecture.

11 p.m. Catch up with Jackson Wong (not Jackson Wang; this Jackson is head of our Asia operations) to discuss “Rap for the Youth,” a Chinese TV show where we mentor young musicians of all genres, but mostly hip-hop, and help them make music.

In Asia, each country has such distinct arts scenes and there are so many young people aspiring to do cool things, but a lot of them haven’t been to America. They only experience it through the internet. There’s an opportunity right now for us to do really strong storytelling that can help bring people closer together, and even understand each other a little bit better.

9:30 a.m. I spend the morning on a call with SiriusXM; we’re planning an all-Asian satellite radio channel.

11 a.m. The 88rising staff and I have a Google Hangout to talk about a dance music label imprint we’re creating. It was dance music that actually brought us together in the first place.

12:30 p.m. Head to our new office for a photo shoot for this article. It’s the first time I’ve been to the space since I did a walk-through last year when we were looking at potential offices. I do a more thorough inspection and imagine everyone being able to work together again.

3:30 p.m. After the shoot, I block out some time to write a treatment for a film script we’re developing about a group of Asian-American friends in the early 2000s. It’s going to be raw and real.

6 p.m. I have a call with Ernest Cu, the chief executive of Globe, the largest telecom company in the Philippines, and his marketing head, Joe Caliro. Together, we created Paradise Rising, a new label focused on bringing music from the Philippines to the global stage. We plan for the rest of the year and 2021.

8 p.m. I order the best soup from Yukdaejang in Koreatown and watch more “Ozark” with wifey.

10 a.m. Back to Go Get Em Tiger. Later, I feed my dogs the bacon from the breakfast sandwiches and Judy scolds me.

11 a.m. Jimmy Iovine calls, just making sure I’m good; he’s a mentor and adviser. This time, he asks me to send some of the new music the crew and I have been working on.

Noon I left my computer charger at the office the day before so I have to run and grab it. I end up driving around for an hour on work calls about needing new hires and a call with my parents, where my mom describes how important it is to have an air purifier in our home.

2 p.m. Check in with music writer Jeff Chang about working on ALWAYS RISING with us. We’re trying to set up a video shoot in the Bay Area and talking about which hip-hop legends to include, especially women. Jeff and I have such similar vibes because we both experienced the same Bay Area hip-hop scene, from Hieroglyphics and Quannum to growing up on Mac Dre and E-40.

3 p.m. Have a group call with 36 Chambers, my team and the genius producer Bekon, to go through some songs we’re making together. Bekon is incredibly blunt and it’s hilarious when he calls one of the songs a bad version of Korn and Eminem. (It’s one of the songs I suggested, but it’s OK.)

5 p.m. “Pretty Please” gets released in four hours. All systems are ready to go.



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