Higher Brothers

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Higher Brothers
Higher Brothers Icebox 2019.jpg
Background information
OriginChengdu, Sichuan, China
Genres
Years active2016–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websitewww.88rising.com/higherbrothers.html
Members
  • MaSiWei (马思唯)
  • DZKnow (丁震)
  • Psy.P (杨俊逸)
  • Melo (谢宇杰)

Higher Brothers are a Chinese hip-hop group from Chengdu consisting of four members: MaSiWei (马思唯), DZknow (丁震), Psy.P (杨俊逸), and Melo (谢宇杰). They are signed with the record label 88rising, whose roster of artists includes Asian and Asian-American artists.[2][3] The group is known for their songs in Mandarin and Sichuanese that celebrate Chinese culture, with songs such as "Made in China", "Black Cab" and "WeChat". Higher Brothers are notable as a high-profile rap group that has largely avoided Chinese government censorship while gaining popularity in the West, making them the first Chinese rap act to garner international success.[4][5][6]

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Higher Brothers are part of the much larger rap collective Chengdu Rap House (成都说唱会馆), also known as CDC (an abbreviation of Chengdu City), which was formed in the early 2010s. Melo, who was the earliest of the Higher Brothers to join the Rap House, performed in a cypher video in 2012 alongside original Rap House members such as Fat Shady and Sleepy Cat.[7] Meanwhile, Masiwei began rapping around 2013, releasing three solo mixtapes in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and Melo and Psy.P performed as a duo called 天地会 (TianDi Clan, or TDC), releasing a mixtape in 2015.

In 2015, DZknow, who had recently arrived from Nanjing, released a song with Masiwei and Psy.P called "Haier Brothers" (海爾兄弟) after the old logo of the Chinese electronics company Haier, which features a pair of brothers.[8] After the song received a positive reception, the members decided to form a group and name it after the song.[9] Over time, the English form of the name became "Higher Brothers".[10][4] The group's music is inspired by 50 Cent, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Migos.[11]

The quick cycles of media consumerism in China allowed the Higher Brothers to enter the underground Chinese hip-hop scene and explode in popularity within a matter of months, and their international success would soon follow after signing with multinational label 88rising.[9]

88rising and International Success[edit]

The Higher Brothers joined 88rising in 2016 and are managed by Sean Miyashiro and Lana Larkin. Larkin also appeared on a few of their tracks.[12][13] The group first appeared on 88rising's YouTube channel in 2016 with the song "Black Cab".[9] A video published by 88rising shows prominent hip-hop figures like Kyle, Lil' Yachty, Migos, and Playboi Carti reacting extremely positively to Higher Brothers' hit music video "Made in China" skyrocketed their popularity and helped push them into the public eye internationally. The video currently has over 22 million views. The Higher Brothers also appeared in both Adidas Originals and Beats by Dre commercials, and were involved in a photo shoot with Russel Westbrook to promote the opening of a Jordan flagship store in Shanghai.[9]

Due to the success of songs like "Made in China" and "Franklin", the Higher Brothers embarked on a tour through Asia alongside 88rising artists Joji and Rich Brian in late 2017. In 2018 the group embarked on their North American Tour "Journey to the West", named after their EP of the same name which was released in January 2018. The group released their second album Five Stars in 2019, and embarked on their worldwide "Wish You Rich" tour starting May 2019.[4][14] At the end of 2019 the group announced that each member would release a solo album. DZknow released his album Mr. Enjoy Da Money on December 12, 2019 and also started a street wear brand of the same name.[15] On February 28, 2020 MaSiWei released his solo album Prince Charming, named after the 1999 movie of the same name.[16] Melo's solo album Old Master came out in April 2020 and revolved around the theme of paying homage to old guard rappers. [17] Psy.P released his album PSYLIFE.25 in May 2020, featuring the singles Chanel, Tongzilin, and Bad Habits. [18]

Band members[edit]

Higher Brothers performing in Seattle - March, 2018

These are Chinese names; surnames appear first.

  • MaSiWei, b.1993 (马思唯, Mǎ Sīwéi, also known as Ma Shi [马师] lit. "Master Ma", formerly known as OG Skippy), group leader, from Pixian, Chengdu.[9]
    • MaSiWei was into hip-hop from a young age, and cites inspirations such as 50 Cent and his album Get Rich or Die Tryin'. He joined the CDC in 2013.[3]
  • DZknow, b.1996 (丁震, Dīng Zhèn, also known as KnowKnow or simply DZ), from Nanjing.
    • DZknow had several aspirations as an adolescent, most notably wanting to be an astronaut. His hip-hop inspirations came from Lil John and Ludacris' Yeah. He became connected to the rest of the group through Weibo, when he purchased a beat from MaSiWei.[3]
  • Psy.P, b.1994 (杨俊逸, Yáng Jùnyì) from Chengdu.[19]
    • Psy P.'s hip-hop interest came from T.I. and Lil' Wayne, both prominent figures in rap around the time he joined the CDC in 2011, before becoming a joint act with Melo.[3]
  • Melo, b.1994 (谢宇杰, Xiè Yǔjié) from Chengdu.
    • Melo had aspirations of being a professional soccer player in China before joining the CDC in 2011.[3]

Discography[edit]

Mixtape: Higher Brothers[edit]

The group released a mixtape in 2016 entitled Higher Brothers Mixtape. It consists of 19 tracks including the "original" versions of two songs also featured on Black Cab - "7/11" and "WeChat". The original version of "7/11" featured a beat that was produced by Deko, while "Wechat" used the beat from Speaker Knockerz's song "Count Up". These beats were most likely changed for the re-released versions due to copyright concerns.[citation needed]

Track No. Track Name Artists featured Producer
1 "Higher Brothers" (intro) Higher Brothers Masiwei
2 玩耍 Psy.P, Melo and DZknow Swagg B
3 "我打开微信不是来听你BB这些的" DZknow, Psy.P and Masiwei Speaker Knockerz
4 "Facts" (remix) Higher Brothers Charlie Heat, Metro Boomin, Southside
5 可以 Masiwei and Psy.P feat. Sleepy Cat ITrezBeats
6 因为 Psy.P and DZknow Canis Major
7 "7-11" Psy.P, DZknow and Masiwei Deko
8 "Okay" (remix) Masiwei Sonny Digital
9 嫉妒 Masiwei, Psy.P and DZknow Flip
10 该挨 Higher Brothers livinlargeinve
11 尴尬 Masiwei and Psy.P PDUB the Producer
12 "Cosplay" Masiwei and Psy.P Simon Marcus
13 "Interlude" Psy.P N/A
14 "Black Cab" Masiwei, Psy.P and DZknow 2kOnTheTrack
15 "Without You" DZknow and Psy.P Breezy
16 冬眠 DZknow, Melo and Psy.P Flip
17 小弟娃 Masiwei and Psy.P IGNORVNCE
18 你, 我 Higher Brothers Bravestarr and Yamumoto
19 "Outro" Masiwei Masiwei

Debut album: Black Cab[edit]

Their debut album Black Cab was released on May 31, 2017. It features collaborations with Keith Ape, Famous Dex and Jay Park. The album was named for the unlicensed black cab drivers of the Higher Brothers native Chengdu.[9] Despite its success, the album is almost entirely in Sichuanese, which made it almost unintelligible for a majority of Chinese listeners.[9] It features songs from the groups pre-88rising days, as well as new songs written after signing with the label. The album contains the Higher Brother's song "Made In China", which Noisey describes as their "most famous track to date".[9] The video for the song went viral, receiving over 15 million views as of March 2019.[20]

Track No. Track Name Artists featured Producer
1 "WeChat" Higher Brothers feat. Keith Ape Rogét Chahayed
2 "Isabellae" (蝴蝶) Masiwei, Melo and Psy.P Charlie Heat
3 "Made in China" Higher Brothers feat. Famous Dex Richie Souf
4 "Franklin" Masiwei, DZknow and Psy.P feat. Jay Park Jedi-P
5 "Black Cab" Masiwei, DZknow and Psy.P Sauce Boss
6 "Why Not" Masiwei, DZknow and Psy.P Origami
7 "Mine" DZknow and Psy.P Izzy tha Great
8 "Wudidong" DZknow, Psy.P and Masiwei BricksDaMane
9 "Bitch don't kill my dab" Masiwei, DZknow and Psy.P OG Abi
10 "Aston Martin" DZknow and Psy.P feat. Ken Rebel Tantu Beats
11 "Ding Mogu" Masiwei, Psy.P and DZknow Maaly Raw
12 "Yah" DZknow, Masiwei and Psy.P feat. J Mag Goldkeyz
13 "Young Master" Higher Brothers Key Pusha Beats
14 "711" Masiwei, DZknow and Psy.P Masiwei

EP: Journey To The West[edit]

Higher Brothers released a new EP on January 17, 2018, during their North American tour with the same name accompanied by other artists from 88rising. There are four tracks in the EP, one of them being "Flo Rida". Originally just a single before the official announcement of the rest of the Journey to the West EP, the song blends both the Chinese and English languages. The song is produced by Florida rapper and producer Smokepurpp and features Ski Mask the Slump God. The EP is named after the popular Chinese novel of the same name.

Track No. Track Name Artist Featured Producer
1 "Flo Rida" Higher Brothers feat. Ski Mask The Slump God Smokepurpp
2 "Room Service" DZknow and Masiwei Icekrim
3 "Chanel" Psy.P BricksOnDaBeat
4 "Rich Bitch" Higher Brothers feat. Ski Mask the Slump God N/A

Second album: Five Stars[edit]

On February 8, 2019, the group released their second album Five Stars. It was released on February 22, 2019.[21] It features collaborations with American rappers, like Soulja Boy, Ski Mask the Slump God, Denzel Curry and more.[22]

Significance[edit]

Culturally[edit]

The Higher Brothers became part of a wider phenomenon in China that ventured from the traditional ways of the past generation. For many in the younger generation in China, the cutthroat housing market and job and marriage markets are extremely competitive and present a lot of obstacles for young Chinese.[23] Higher Brothers are the first Chinese rap group to achieve international recognition, rivaling the overseas popularity of Chinese pop stars like Kris Wu, Jackson Wang and Lay Zhang.[24]

The group has been able to circumvent Chinese censorship, believed largely due to the unmet need in cultural product of exportable quality. In an older song, Melo rapped "I don't write political hip-hop. But if any politicians try to shut me up, I'll cut off their heads and lay them at their corpses' feet."[25] This line caused him to be brought into the Public Security Bureau for further questioning, but he was ultimately let go.

Musically[edit]

The Higher Brothers bring energy and crowd involvement into their performances through multilingual integration of their music: speaking to the crowd in mandarin while rapping in English, Mandarin, and Sichuanese.[26] This kind of higher level participation from the crowd was largely unseen in the hip-hop scene during the Higher Brothers' come up, but has since become more prevalent.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "CDC成都集团Chengdu Corp. (New Label) 2020 Cypher - Higher Brothers,ATM,Ty.,SleepyCat,王以太3HO,DDG - Youtube".
  2. ^ "Why Higher Brothers Wasn't Censored by China's Government". PAPER. 2018-01-23. Archived from the original on 2019-02-19. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e Nast, Condé. "The American Dream of the Higher Brothers". GQ. Archived from the original on 2019-06-10. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  4. ^ a b c EST, Christina Zhao On 2/26/19 at 7:00 AM (2019-02-26). "From Chengdu with Flow: How the Higher Brothers brought Chinese hip-hop to Western ears". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 2019-03-14. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  5. ^ "Higher Brothers". Spotify. Archived from the original on 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  6. ^ "(Don't) fight the power". New Internationalist. 2019-12-04. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  7. ^ Qin, Amy (October 26, 2017). "With Dreadlocks, Rhythm and Flow, China Embraces Hip-Hop". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on November 8, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Sonmez, Felicia (2016-01-22). "As Haier Rises, Have Its Gay Icons Retired?". WSJ. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Teixeira, Lauren; Ross, Alex Robert; Horn, Leslie; Friedlander, Emilie (2018-01-28). "Higher Brothers Are Chinese Hip-Hop's Greatest Hope". Noisey. Archived from the original on 2018-03-05. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  10. ^ Hsu, Hua (2018-03-19). "How 88rising Is Making a Place for Asians in Hip-Hop". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Archived from the original on 2018-08-23. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  11. ^ Agrawal, Nadya (16 June 2017). "Meet the Higher Brothers, the Rap Group Climbing Over the Great Firewall of China". PAPER. Archived from the original on 13 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Meet Lana Larkin, the woman behind Higher Brothers's global crossover". The FADER. Archived from the original on 2019-02-22. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  13. ^ Wong, Alex. "The American Dream of the Higher Brothers". gq.com. Archived from the original on 2019-06-10.
  14. ^ "Higher Brothers on How Their Chinese Trap Sound Won America Over: 'We Can Do Some Swag S--t'". Billboard. Archived from the original on 2019-06-11. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
  15. ^ "Higher Brothers KnowKnow Talks Solo LP & Working With Snoop Dogg". Maven. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  16. ^ https://hiphopdx.com, HipHopDX- (2020-02-23). "Interview: MaSiWei Talks International Success & His Debut Album 'Prince Charming'". HipHopDX. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  17. ^ "Higher Brothers' Melo Drops Debut Solo Album 'Old Master'". HYPEBEAST. Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  18. ^ "Psy.P of The Higher Brothers Releases Music Video for "Bad Habits"". HYPEBEAST. Retrieved 2020-11-09.
  19. ^ Staff, X. X. L. "The Break Presents: Higher Brothers - XXL". XXL Mag. Archived from the original on 2019-06-03. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
  20. ^ 88rising (2017-03-28), "Higher Brothers x Famous Dex - Made In China (Prod. Richie Souf)", youtube.com, archived from the original on 2019-03-12, retrieved 2019-03-15
  21. ^ Findlay, Mitch (2019-02-08). "Higher Brothers' Album Lands J.I.D, ScHoolboy Q, Denzel Curry & More". HotNewHipHop. Archived from the original on 2019-02-09. Retrieved 2019-02-08. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  22. ^ Opie, David. "Higher Brothers Smash All Kinds of Barriers With 'Five Stars'". highsnobiety.com. Archived from the original on 2019-04-25. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  23. ^ Teixeira, Lauren (2018-01-28). "Higher Brothers Are Chinese Hip-Hop's Greatest Hope". Vice. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  24. ^ Grogan, Bryan. "Empire Building: How Higher Brothers Took "Made in China" Trap International". RADII. Retrieved 11 November 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  25. ^ "Meet the Higher Brothers, the Rap Group Climbing Over the Great Firewall of China". PAPER. 2017-06-16. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  26. ^ Wong, Alex. "The American Dream of the Higher Brothers". GQ. Retrieved 2020-04-04.

Further reading[edit]