Rapper Rich Brian arrives onstage at the Head in the Clouds music and arts festival in L.A. on Saturday, Aug. 16. (Photo by Jeremy Hsiao)
California School of the Arts

Review: Head in the Clouds music and arts festival returns for a second year in L.A.

88rising’s Head in the Clouds music and arts festival returned for a second year at the Los Angeles Historic Park. With an almost entirely Asian and Asian American line-up, the festival garnered 25,000 people — more than double the amount of last year, according to rapper and record producer Rich Brian on an Instagram post.

“As an Asian female, I do not take this stage for granted,” pop singer-songwriter NIKI said during her set. “My hope is, above everything else, you feel heard, you feel understood, but most of all, that you feel represented. If we can all be a small part of catalyzing that shift in culture, then that is my greatest honor.”

During NIKI’s set, she performed her latest single “Indigo,” as well as songs from her latest “wanna take this downtown” EP. She even sang along to “My Boo” by the Ghost Town DJs, popularized by The Running Man Challenge.

The Indonesian national anthem plays before NIKI’s set. (Photo by Jeremy Hsiao)

However, missing from the list was an expected Jackson Wang, member of GOT-7. A second of scrolling through past 88rising Instagram post’s comments reveals many angered people. However, Wang could not fly to L.A. due to threats to his security.

The festival isn’t just about music. All food vendors were curated by the popular 626 Night Market, psychedelic photo ops and interactive art installations were scattered throughout the park, and a giant slide stood in front of the entrance. Throughout the park were merchandise booths, including the Guess and 88rising collaboration.

With two stages, the festival was able to showcase a range of RNB artists, rappers, and producers from August 08 to the Higher Brothers to Y2k. On the main stage performed the long-awaited Rich Brian, his first performance in nine months.

The Higher Brothers perform on the main “Head in the Clouds” stage. (Photo by Jeremy Hsiao)

Rich Brian caught the attention of the music industry with “Dat $tick” in 2016. Holding the moniker “Rich Chigga” while dressed in a pink polo shirt, cargo shorts, and a fanny pack, many people took him as a joke. However, he left behind much of his past rapping antics in the past, along with the second part of his name. In his next two albums, “Amen,” and most recently, “The Sailor,” he speaks on his journey to the United States.

At the festival, Rich Brian traversed themes of family, relationships, fame, and sex through his past and latest hits that had the crowd jumping. He ended the set with “Kids,” a story of his break into the mainstream, but the excitement in the crowd did not dim.

Joji, previously known as Filthy Frank on YouTube, has captivated the world with soulful songs of melancholic themes. Even when freestyling about his tonsillitis, promoting the importance of water by starting a chant, and randomly covering Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” he was able to entrance the crowd, myself included.

For his performance of “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” he mounted a crane and flew above the crowd as the bass shook the ground. Even with sorrowful lyrics, the experience was euphoric.

The festival closed the same way it did last year — a joint encore performance from 88rising artists August 08, the Higher Brothers, NIKI, Rich Brian, and Joji with songs like “Midsummer Madness” and “Head in the Clouds.”