Higher Brothers Credit: Courtesy the Artist

The Higher Brothers found inspiration for their group’s name in air conditioners. Or, rather, the supplier of the air conditioners they know best: Haier, the Chinese consumer-electronics company that purchased General Electric’s home appliance unit for $5.6 billion in 2016. Likewise, the Higher Brothers—a four-person hip-hop group that formed in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province—aspire to be as globally dominant and renowned in their field as the company in their (very large) backyard. The group’s sharpest work balances its members’ embrace of their cultural heritage with their stark ambition in the face of whatever expectations outsiders have of them at first blush. “Made in China,” off their debut full-length, 2017’s Black Cab, is built on a lean, post-trap beat accented with hand-drum samples. It sounds like any other hot contemporary hip-hop track—with the notable exception that most of its lyrics are rapped in Chinese. The song’s English-language hook is a listicle of everyday objects manufactured in China. Its message is clear: China supplies the world with almost every top-of-the-line item, and now with the Higher Brothers, it’s on a path to claim some room in international hip-hop as well. And as they grow their reach, they’ve got plenty of American rappers in their corner. In June, 88rising, the hybrid label and management company behind Black Cab and the group’s January EP, Journey to the West, published a video of popular MCs reacting to “Made in China,” with Migos, Kyle, Joey Purp, Lil Yachty, G Herbo, and Smino among others praising the Higher Brothers. (Note: Made in China” features Chicago rapper Famous Dex, who was seen beating his girlfriend in surveillance footage that was leaked on Instagram in 2016.)   v