When George Miller became the first Asian-born solo artist to top the hip-hop and R&B charts in late 2018, his feelings were mixed. On the one hand, he was proud—who wouldn’t be? Not only were people listening to his music, but he’d also become the face of something bigger than himself, a new chapter in the changing narrative of race and representation in pop music. On the other hand, it wasn’t like he’d ever thought of himself as an Asian artist before—just an artist. Still, he considered himself a guest of the culture. And like any good guest, he wanted to carry himself with respect. Or, as he once joked, to take off his shoes when he came into the house.
Born in Osaka in 1992, Miller got his start as the creator of two irreverent and highly popular YouTube personalities, Filthy Frank and Pink Guy—projects that didn’t necessarily reflect his artistic ambitions, but proved his firm handle on the fluid vernacular of internet culture. Since debuting Joji in late 2017, Miller has become a key voice in a clique of younger hip-hop and R&B artists—including his peers in the 88rising collective—who have managed to connect as seamlessly with Asian audiences as with American ones, a reflection of both the changing demographics of global culture and the border-free nature of life online. And his music—moody, downcast ballads and sleek electro-pop—only underscores the idea that in an increasingly digital world, where you’re from is less important than what you’re into.
BORNSeptember 18, 1992