Celebrating the many facets of Asian youth pop culture and music, 88rising’s Head in the Clouds festival is back, taking place at Los Angeles’ State Historic Parkin Los Angeles this Saturday. After attracting more than 10,000 attendees at last year’s inaugural edition, the Asian-centric festival is expected to be bigger and better than ever, uniting the worlds of music, fashion, food and art in one place.
New this year is a second stage for dance and electronic talent, according to 88rising, a multimedia media company and label that bridges the gap between pop cultures in the East and West through music. In the four years since the company started, 88rising has championed many Asian artists in hip-hop and created a platform for them to showcase their work. Their first-ever festival of its kind brings these acts to a big stage in one of the most diverse cities in the country.
Headlined by 88rising’s two most emblematic acts–Joji and Rich Brian–the Head in the Clouds lineup reflects the biggest names in Asian entertainment today. From rappers to R&B singers to DJs to a boy band, the festival’s program highlights the diversity of genres and styles being created by artists that are largely underrepresented in the States. To offer a little navigation through the lineup of more than a dozen artists, we selected a few up-and-coming acts that are lesser known to the general public but you definitely can’t miss at the festival.
Jackson Wang is no stranger to LA. As one seventh of the massively successful K-pop group GOT7, the Hong Kong rapper has performed in California countless times—from KCON stints to their own concerts at The Forum. Having just wrapped up the group’s worldwide tour this summer, Wang is coming back sans the rest of GOT7 to perform for the first time his solo material he’s been releasing since 2017. Splitting up his year in two, he promotes half a year with the group and the other as the rapper “Jackson Wang from China.” For his breakout single “Papillon,” he rapped about finally attaining independence, and he often references his unwavering ambition in his tracks. In contrast with his work in the K-pop industry, Wang runs a largely one-man operation through Team Wang, his own agency set up for his promotions in China, overseeing everything from song production down to album cover art. Since launching his solo project, Jackson has sustained deals with such high-fashion brands as Fendi China, and he has collaborated with American rappers Gucci Mane and GoldLink. In several interviews earlier this year, Wang mentioned that his first album, Journey to the West, is scheduled for the latter half of the year, but with a handful of lose singles and an ardent, established fanbase, his debut performance at Head in the Clouds will surely be a fiery one.
Following a SXSW performance earlier this year and a change in the group’s lineup at the start of the summer, the K-pop boy group iKON performs in the City of Angels for the first time. Coming from one one the most famous Korean entertainment companies, YG Entertainment, home to acts such as BLACKPINK and Taeyang, it’s unusual that the sextet has yet to perform here in the four years they’ve been active—and especially during recent months when more K-pop acts have been touring the States than ever. That changes this weekend for the Head in the Clouds first timers, though. With a discography spanning two full albums, two EPs, several reissues and a few loose singles, iKON will put on an amazing show to wow festival-going fans, who will definitely perk up when they launch into their hit “Love Scenario.”
Starting out uploading cover songs on YouTube, the Indonesian R&B singer became the first female artist to sign to 88rising and issued her debut EP Zephyr last year. Niki followed it up with this year’s “wanna take this downtown?” that added a bit more lush pop into the mix with her glittering, sweet vocals, shifting away from the more chill sounds she had on her previous work. Having performed at last year’s inaugural Head in the Clouds festival, Niki is back with new glossy material that will have the audience in their feelings.
After a sold out U.S. tour with a stop at The Novo last year, DPR Live is back in town to play an equally turnt-up set at the festival. Fronted by its lead rapper Live, DPR is a seven-member music and video collective, a label and at heart, a group of friends making art together. Some of their roles include visual directing (Christian Yu aka DPRIAN) to producing (DPR Cream) to production directing (DPR Rem). Though there are more recognizable names in the Korean rap game, Live, with his visually stunning videos and a perfect blend of Korean and English in his verses, is one of the few rappers to make it onto the Billboard charts, signaling a substantial fan base stateside. His 2017 EP HER peaked at No. 8 on the World Albums Chart. Albeit Live hasn’t released new music in a minute (he did recently drop the collab track “Gravity” with Cream, however), his musical repertoire is strong enough to make fans jump around and recite every lyric just as they did at his show last year.
Heavily influenced by her upbringing in the Pacific Northwest, Deb Never brings the grunge-y angst to the lineup this year. Though still very early in her career, she creates ominous, woozy soundscape in her songs such as “In the Night.” Lo-fi demos on her Soundcloud page have drawn recognition from Rolling Stone and the music discovery site Pigeons and Planes, who hail her as an up-and-coming artist to watch. Following her Head in the Clouds performance, Deb drops her debut EP House on Wheels on Aug. 30 and will join Dominic Fike on tour as a supporting act this fall.