Saturday, July 13, 2024

Head In The Clouds Festival: Rapper Warren Hue talks event’s return to Pasadena

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Before Warren Hue had ever performed at the Head in the Clouds Festival, the 21-year-old Indonesian rapper understood the importance of the festival in championing Asian pop, rock, rap and electronic music from around the world.

“I would always watch it on YouTube,” says Hue, who returns for a third time when Head in the Clouds returns to Pasadena on Aug. 5-6.

“So Head in the Clouds has always been a big thing for me,” he says. “I was just a fan of it before, honestly. It’s one of the most wholesome crowds, like, respectful crowds.

“And it’s also with 88rising,” Hue says of the record label that, in addition to founding the festival in 2018, also releases his music. “So it’s like performing with family. It’s kind of nice.”

  • Rapper Warren Hue, seen here at the 2022 Coachella Valley...

    Rapper Warren Hue, seen here at the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival, returns to the Head in the Clouds Festival in Pasadena on Aug. 5-6, 2023 for the third time. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

  • Rapper Warren Hue, seen here at the 2022 Coachella Valley...

    Rapper Warren Hue, seen here at the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival, returns to the Head in the Clouds Festival in Pasadena on Aug. 5-6, 2023 for the third time. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

  • Rapper Warren Hue, seen here performing in 2022 at the...

    Rapper Warren Hue, seen here performing in 2022 at the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival, returns to the Head in the Clouds Festival in Pasadena on Aug. 5-6, 2023 for his third time. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

Head in the Clouds 2023 features a lineup topped by big names such as Jackson Wang, Niki, and Rich Brian, and filled out with increasingly well-known artists such as Rina Sawayama, DPR Live and DPR Ian, and Tokimonsta.

In addition to two full days of music, Head in the Clouds is bringing back the 626 Night Market to curate a special selection of food booths representing some of the best independent Asian cuisine in Southern California.

In addition to the Pasadena flagship festival, Hue played the first New York City version of Head in the Clouds earlier this year, as well as the Jakarta and Manila festivals in 2022. When his music career started to take off several years ago, Hue set aside his plans to study contemporary art at Parsons School of Design in New York City and moved to Los Angeles.

In an interview edited for clarity and length, Hue talked about the significance of Head in the Clouds and 88rising, the increasing popularity of Asian acts in the United States, and more.

Q: What was the impact of you performing at your first Head in the Clouds in 2021?

A: Definitely very, very, very significant in my opinion. I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes. It definitely brought a lot of new fans to my music. Even back in Jakarta, I would have a lot of people from California who would listen to my music. I was just super happy to see them in person and see that a lot of people from out here listen to my music. It’s a cool feeling.

Q: Talk about the role 88rising has had not only in your music but in championing Asian artists and Asian American artists to audiences.

A: 88rising has always been a very dream-like label to be on. When I was younger, just hearing all the content that they put out, I always thought it was unique and a cool way to showcase Asian artists. I’ve never really heard of, or even listened to, any Asian artists before 88rising. So they’ve definitely created a platform for a lot of Asians from around the world.

The festival is a huge one, for sure. It definitely helped a lot with my career. And just being almost like a family-oriented label is also a very big thing for me. Because I’d rather be close with who I’m working with instead of just being so separated and industry-like.

Q: Obviously, K-pop has become huge in the United States. But you and Niki and Rich Brian are breaking through from Indonesia. What’s it like to here from that background??

A: It’s definitely nice to know that Brian and Niki are also Indonesian and part of the label. There’s a comfortability factor ever since I came here, and we’ve shared relatable stuff. I do share some of (my Indonesian heritage) in my music already. But I’ve also always been a big fan of American music anyways. A lot of my favorite artists are from America. It’s a good position.

Q: In recent years, Asian artists have increasingly found fans and acceptance around the world. What’s changed to make that happen?

A: I think we’ve just slowly gotten bigger. We’re not there yet for sure. We’re still just scratching the surface when it comes to Asian music, well, not including K-pop. But now people are starting to gain more attention, and I think it’s just gonna go up from now. And the festivals do help. They’ve been doing very well for sure.

Q: You’d just moved to Los Angeles two years ago when you, Niki and Rich Brian collaborated on the single “California,” which reflected on the experiences all three of you have had here. How have you settled into L.A. since then?

A: Los Angeles has been very, very cool. I think I’ve just been more grounded as time goes by. Obviously, my mom being here is very vital, and she’s been supporting me throughout the whole journey. I’m definitely getting more comfortable. I’ve been moving a lot of places, moving in different apartments, checking different areas out.

Yeah, my first impression of California was a lot different for sure. It was definitely more of a shock for me. I’m just not used to how things go here.

Q: You’ve talked about L.A. rappers like Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt being inspirations to you before. Have you been able to meet or collaborate with any Los Angeles artists yet?

A: I definitely would want to collaborate with more artists out here. I don’t have connections with them as much, or I’m not like on a friendship level with a lot of artists out here. I had the chance to meet J.I.D., who is a great rapper. We were backstage at Coachella, just telling him much I appreciate his music and how much he inspired me.

Also, Brockhampton. They’re really cool people as well in person. I would definitely want to meet them a lot more, or just work on music with them. Even though they’re split up now, even as individual artists they’re really talented.

Q: Right around the time you were signing with 88rising, the label and co-founder Sean Miyashiro put together the soundtrack for Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.’ You ended up on four tracks, which must have been a thrill.

A: It was crazy because it was like the first two months of being signed with 88rising. Sean was like, ‘Hey, we have this movie soundtrack,’ and at first, I didn’t even what it was, until like a week after he told me it was for ‘Shang-Chi.’ That kind of just blew my mind because I was always a big fan of Marvel growing up, like, watching all the MCUs since (the first) ‘Iron Man.’

It’s insane to see how I would have this opportunity so early on. So I definitely had a mindset where I just needed to try extra hard when it comes to the writing process and making sure it thematically fit with the movie, too. I was very happy to be a part of it.

Q: So after Head in the Clouds, what’s next for you?

A: I’m working on a mixtape right now; it’s mainly focusing on experimenting with different genres like R&B and hip-hop a lot more. And I do have another project lined up after this mixtape which is going to be another album I’m to hopefully have come out next year sometime.

I’m trying to work on clothes as well. A fashion project. I feel like it’s very aligned with what I’m doing.

Head in the Clouds

When: Saturday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 6.

Where: Brookside at the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena.

How much: Two-day passes are $269 for general admission, $425 for VIP, and $749 for South Bay Surf Club.

For more: Go to la.hitcfestival.com for tickets, set times, and all the other details.

626 Night Market at HITC 2023

Head in the Clouds Festival is our pick for the best music festival food in Southern California thanks to its collaboration with 626 Night Market, the largest night market in the United States, which curates a special food and beverage zone.

This year’s lineup includes 626 Night Market regulars including All Dat Dumpling, Baozza, Friedays, Ghostix, Luckyball Korean BBQ, Sandoitchi, Shake Ramen, Sugarmama Sugarcane, Sunday Cafe, Supreme Musubi, Tao’s Bao, and Waffleland.

In addition, Los Angeles restaurants including Bone Kettle, Bopomofo Cafe, Cocodealers, The Drunken Dumpling and IKI Ramen will be on site.

New this year is the Head in the Clouds’ Boba Village, a boba market of sorts with local boba vendors including Bobaful, Factory Tea Bar, Hey Hey, Milk + Tea, Sunright Tea Studio and Trà Space.

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