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And the Beat Goes On... Nihongo Stylee!!!
January 19, 2008 7:14 PM   Subscribe

...Japanese hip hop has become a significant national, cultural, and business genre since the late twentieth century, and this phenomenon has been applied and has succeeded by using almost the same ideology that was historically used by other Japanese industries like automobile manufacturing. The pioneers in the Japanese hip hop industry like Buddha Brand learned their skills in the U.S. and have successfully been influencing the contemporary Japanese music scene. As a result, the imported hip hop has become a ''Japanized'' products. Many hip hop industries in Japan have modified the American hip hop into Japanese ways, and their businesses, like the hip hop dance schools, have succeeded.
The Japanese Hip Hop Movement: Its Cultural and Economic Impact posted by y2karl (39 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
America! What have we wrought?!
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2008


Fascinating.
...And I always (foolishly) assumed that local Yakuza culture would spawn its own indigenous music and offer a homegrown Japanese Gangsta product.
(I know I know I know: not all hip hop is Gangsta...)
Are there any other cultures that quickly come to mind that have an equivalent to "our" gangsta stuff from around the world?
I admit to being woefully unschooled.
posted by Dizzy at 7:28 PM on January 19, 2008


I'm Sushi K and I'm here to say
I like to rap in a different way
Look out Number One in every city
Sushi K rap has all most pretty


Something like that? sorry for the pure snark
posted by synaesthetichaze at 7:30 PM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, on a positive note, the dominance the Japanese have enjoyed in terms of literacy rates and test scores is soon to be over.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:34 PM on January 19, 2008


Been around for quite a while, but DJ Krush was my first taste of J-Hop back when he put out a collaboration with Coldcut, Cold Krush Cuts.

Awesome stuff. Thanks for the post.
posted by dozo at 7:43 PM on January 19, 2008


This is clean, at first I couldn't get it but they have the pauses and emphasis that french hip hop misses, so after awhile it was unmistakable this is hip hop. Its also crazy that rapping style can cross languages Buhhda Brand reminds of Tribe.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:08 PM on January 19, 2008


My first experience with Japanese hip hop was seeing the video for Kick the Can Crew's Sayonara Sayonara. I had a friend pick up a copy of their best-of while in Japan and that song has never left my iPod since. Though lately, I've been getting into Epik High, a Korean hip hop group. I really enjoy listening to hip hop in languages I don't understand (also in languages I do speak).
posted by Kattullus at 8:15 PM on January 19, 2008


Are there any other cultures that quickly come to mind that have an equivalent to "our" gangsta stuff from around the world?

Narcocorridos. Which sound as awful to me as gangsta rap sounds to my grandparents.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:19 PM on January 19, 2008


Nice find, y2karl.

Japan has built, and is one of a tiny handful of places outside of the US to have done so (France comes to mind, Israel a touch, and probably one or two other places I'm forgetting), a truly standalone, advanced, and legitimately interesting Hip Hop scene.

I'm sure it started at some point before this, but in the mid to late 90s, cutting a track with a Japanese producer was a serious notch of backpacker cred for US MCs. DJ Krush's Meiso comes to mind (well, that's all that comes to mind, but I feel like there are others).

I need to get back into all of this to see what's happened on the Japanese MC end of things (not that I'm in any danger of being able to evauluate certain essential aspects of it).

Also, I've heard good things about this documentary about DJ Kentaro, which is more on the turntablist side of things, but Hip Hop nonetheless.
posted by kosem at 9:05 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I actually take it back a little bit about Israeli hip hop. It's gotten much better, and there are some good things happening, but it's nowhere near France and Japan...maybe it's a language thing that makes me rate it a bit too highly upfront.)
posted by kosem at 9:07 PM on January 19, 2008


Many hip hop industries in Japan have modified the American hip hop into Japanese ways

Yeah, I can see how like with the Wu-Tang Clan, this would be a huge stretch...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:01 PM on January 19, 2008


Yeah, I can see how like with the Wu-Tang Clan, this would be a huge stretch...

Yo yo yo, Wu-Tang, man, that's CHI-nese, yo, CHI-NESE! Y'see, Japan's this little bitty island east of China, yo! They, like, speak different languages 'n shit, y'dig?

Tell you something kinda funny, though: there's several occasions I've found myself in clothing shops or 100-yen shops or whatever, where the in-store music has been American hip hop, and we're talking the really foul-mouthed hip hop, with your explicit lyrics: getting my dick into the bitch and up into her... and on and on. Meanwhile happy shoppers are entirely oblivious. Very funny moments, those!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:23 PM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was on the same bill at a festival a few months ago up in Sapporo, Hokkaido, with these guys, Tha Blue Herb. They were quite good, and real nice guys, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:31 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


My first experience with Japanese hip hop was seeing the video for Kick the Can Crew's Sayonara Sayonara. I had a friend pick up a copy of their best-of while in Japan and that song has never left my iPod since.

That song gets stuck in my head for days. The production is so, so tight and their flow just makes me headnoddy. I need to pick up the damn record, huh?
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:55 PM on January 19, 2008


I really loved that Tha Blue Herb song!

beaucoupkevin: I need to pick up the damn record, huh?

Nothing quite as amazing as Saynoara Sayonara... but then, what is?
posted by Kattullus at 11:20 PM on January 19, 2008


For foreign-language rap with, eh, somewhat different antics, here's some Finnish low-budget underground rap videos from earlier in the decade.

Mc Taakibörsta - Varo tai mä tuun kyljestä sisään
The video may look mostly nice and sweet but the lyrics are absolutely filthy.

MC Taakibörsta - PA 2001
In this video there's no such distinction.

Notkea Rotta - Pöhinää
Theatrical meth-head car theft rap. In case the video weirds you out, which it will, you should know that 'notkea rotta' means 'limber rat'.
posted by Anything at 12:08 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this is related, but I hope it is.
posted by StopMakingSense at 1:14 AM on January 20, 2008


Everything2 seems to have a good writeup on MC Taakibörsta, although it's dated since the guys behind the name have split and Taakibörsta hasn't released anything in years.
So, what sets MC Taakibörsta apart from the average Finnish hip hop act? As the amount of mainstream rap artists in Finland has exploded in the last few years, the scene seems to be divided into two extremes: the first one being white middle-class suburban boys trying to pass themselves off as bad-ass gangstas from the ghetto and imitating US/Swedish artists. On the other end there are intellectual philosophers, who concentrate on their lyrics. But these three guys don't fit into either category. Although their lyrics deal with not-so-deep subjects like girls, getting drunk and being the best hip hop act there is, they are honest and don't take themselves too seriously. Of course having Davo, one of the most skilled Finnish MC ever on board doesn't hurt either.
posted by Anything at 1:21 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr writes: Well, on a positive note, the dominance the Japanese have enjoyed in terms of literacy rates and test scores is soon to be over.

This is mildly amusing at first glance, but ultimately a rather elitist and (dare I suggest it?) racist comment. Literacy is in the ear of the behearer, my friend, and there's plenty of rap out there that is very literate, within its own sphere and taken on its own merits. Is it Chaucer? No. Homer? No. But it is a word-driven art form, one that speaks for and to its audience in ways that resonate with that audience. And if you don't accept it as literacy, perhaps you need to reexamine your definition of said term. Because your conception of literacy would appear to be based on cultural standards and signifiers that, while not exactly invalid, are, seemingly, culturally myopic.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:24 AM on January 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


A defining moment in Swedish hip hop:

Petter ft Eye n'l - Saker & ting

Back story: The music journalist Fredrik Strage had slagged off Petter, Sweden's biggest hip hop star, on a TV-show called Tryck Till (Push the Button). There was a lot of talk, and maybe even a chance of violence. In the end, Petter's people got in touch with Strage's "people" (of which there were none, so they had to talk to him directly), and asked if he'd be interested in making an appearence in Petter's new video...
posted by Cicerius at 2:31 AM on January 20, 2008


Thanks, y2karl. It's nice to see you around here again. When Buhloone Mindstate came out I can remember thinking that the SDP and Takagi Kan were very interesting, but I haven't paid much attention to Japanese hip hop since so this has been great.

Also, narcocorridos have more to do with the corrido folk form and banda music than gangster rap, despite what Bookhouse says. And, in the tradition of banda, Akwid is a hip hop group that micayetoca told me about (thank you!) that uses the banda brass section and melds it with hip hop beats and rapping. It's not Japanese, but it is pretty great to these ears.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:42 AM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dizzy: "Are there any other cultures that quickly come to mind that have an equivalent to "our" gangsta stuff from around the world?
I admit to being woefully unschooled.
"

Jamaican music had 'gangsta' elements long before hip hop existed, and still does.

Many Murder Ballads are not unsympathetic to the criminal, and earlier medieval murder ballads involve lots of brutal revenge stuff. In fact, I'd bet most folk musics will have a sub-genre devoted to killing and crime (I'm sure there's an Italian/Scicilian genre like this, but I can't remember the name).

Also, at a bit of a tangent, Balkan Turbofolk is fascinating - not 'gangsta' at all, though gangsters and warlords had a role in the scene (actually listening to the stuff is not advised, however!).
posted by jack_mo at 5:00 AM on January 20, 2008


This is mildly amusing at first glance, but ultimately a rather elitist and (dare I suggest it?) racist comment

It's entirely racist and I knew as soon as I saw a post about hip hop that someone would say something like it. It's a law of nature on Mefi.

Thanks for the post Karl.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:30 AM on January 20, 2008


Yo yo yo, Wu-Tang, man, that's CHI-nese, yo, CHI-NESE! Y'see, Japan's this little bitty island east of China, yo! They, like, speak different languages 'n shit, y'dig?

No, no, all of Asia adopted them. Unless you want to tell me that "Chappelle's Show" lied!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:13 AM on January 20, 2008


Well, since people are posting Finnish and Swedish rap I might as well post some Icelandic hip hop. Here's Bent's atheist rap 1, 2 og Jesú, a video from his group XXX Rottweiler for the song Sönn íslensk sakamál. XXXR were huge a few years ago, resting on top of the Icelandic charts for months, but their moment as a group has passed, it seems. Oh, and there's Quarashi, who had a minor world-wide hit with Stick'em Up, but they rap in English. My favorite track of theirs is Malone Lives, which has one of my all-time favorite opening lines: "I wanna grow up to be a fucking Euripides." Oh, and the songtitle is a Beckett reference.
posted by Kattullus at 9:21 AM on January 20, 2008


Gotta get Kanye West & the Teriyaki Boyz in there...
posted by First Post at 12:47 PM on January 20, 2008


Tell you something kinda funny, though: there's several occasions I've found myself in clothing shops or 100-yen shops or whatever, where the in-store music has been American hip hop, and we're talking the really foul-mouthed hip hop, with your explicit lyrics: getting my dick into the bitch and up into her... and on and on. Meanwhile happy shoppers are entirely oblivious. Very funny moments, those!

This happens all the time in Korea, too, at bigbox grocery stores (which are about the only retail establishments we visit, thanks to the glories of internet shopping here). I laugh quietly to myself, and everybody other than my wife (well, ok, including her) assumes I'm slightly insane.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:32 PM on January 20, 2008


flapjax at midnite: But it is a word-driven art form, one that speaks for and to its audience in ways that resonate with that audience. And if you don't accept it as literacy, perhaps you need to reexamine your definition of said term.

We are using the definition of literacy that involves reading and writing, right? Oral traditions or art forms don't necessarily involve that. Most cultures had those before they had a written language at all.

Also, I knew someone would bring up the race card, because you can never criticize or even joke about hip-hop without it coming up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:51 PM on January 20, 2008


Also, narcocorridos have more to do with the corrido folk form and banda music than gangster rap, despite what Bookhouse says.

I was speaking of content, not form, which is what I took him to be asking about.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:12 PM on January 20, 2008


Well, that sentence is ugly. I mean, I thought he was asking about music that shared the topic, not the sound.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:20 PM on January 20, 2008


I can't believe I missed this when I wrote a hasty comment last night:

Well, on a positive note, the dominance the Japanese have enjoyed in terms of literacy rates and test scores is soon to be over.

I have had it up to hear with ignorant fucking bullshit like this. Stop it. A hip hop FPP does not give you carte blanche to say some racist shit. This is not cute and curmudgeonly. You're embarrassing yourself, Mitrovarr.
posted by kosem at 8:03 PM on January 20, 2008


note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.


There is racist, there is reading way too much into way too little and then there is making yourself right by making another wrong. I think that, over a fly away shot from the ignorant hip, calling people out by name in an insulting and belittling comment is way over the line. First do no harm should be the unspoken rule. Give the benefit of the doubt.
posted by y2karl at 8:14 PM on January 20, 2008


Mitrovarr, don't be a dick flapjax was accepting your premise that literacy and hip hop are related and attempting to fight the stereotyping. As your statement as to literacy, Is can storytelling literate, Is spoken poetry literate?, If Joyce writes one poem and extemporaneously creates the other, can only one be literate ? What if they were of similar merit? If a poet reads his poem etc.. etc...
posted by Rubbstone at 8:26 PM on January 20, 2008


I used to collect foreign hip-hop back when I was bumming around Europe in the 90s. The best stuff I heard was from a Danish group... it might have been the Østkyst Hustlers. I'll see if I can dig it up for the pure craziness of the sound. The Danes got more marbles in their mouth than any of the Scandinavian countries.

The stuff linked here... meh. It's all so damned formulaic. The Sayonara Sayonara tune was probably the best, but about as clever as a video game soundtrack. Most of the stuff is just soulless. A bunch of people walking around on a stage saying, "Uhh ... Yeh..."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:19 PM on January 20, 2008


My favorite Danish hip hop group are Den Gale Pose, whose videos unfortunately don't seem to have videos on the net. Sådan er reglene is a great, great track.
posted by Kattullus at 10:08 PM on January 20, 2008


Oh damn... well... hopefully you can make sense of the mangled first sentence.

Anyway, C_D, I've completely fallen for Tha Blue Herb, who I don't find formulaic at all.
posted by Kattullus at 11:33 PM on January 20, 2008


I think that, over a fly away shot from the ignorant hip, calling people out by name in an insulting and belittling comment is way over the line. First do no harm should be the unspoken rule. Give the benefit of the doubt.

That's almost certainly right, y2karl, and I'm sorry for contributing to the derail so stridently.

HOWEVER: I am endlessly disappointed that here, on metafilter, a cadre of people who don't like hip-hop--which is entirely their right--feel compelled to chime in with ignorant (and yes, racist) one-liners. Usually, this requires someone to step in and, once again, remind the disparager that hip-hop is a literate, interesting, and serious genre of music and that perhaps they're mistaken in their dismissal. Whether the person who made the offensive comment meant anything nasty by it is, to me, beside the point.

It is not acceptable behavior, and yet it stands while far less offensive material is harshly rebuked and deleted. It pisses me off to no end, and it happens every time. This particular instance hit a raw nerve.

That said, thanks again for the FPP, and I learned about Tha Blue Herb, copped promptly, and I've started digging around the northern European links. Kudos.
posted by kosem at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2008


But no thread on Japanese Hip-Hop can ever be complete without a mention of Gagle

Consisting of DJ Mitsu the Beats, Hunger and Mu-R. They've been around since 1995, apparently, but released their debut album in 2001.

To be perfectly honest I'm not quite sure how big they are here because I have long since given up on anything related to tracking the popularity of things here but nonetheless, to me, they are what justifies the existence of the genre.
Hunger's amazing delivery, Mitsu the Beats' production which jumps between Pharcyde / A Tribe Called Quest -like stylings, jazzy breaks reminiscent of madlib and his own 'almost house but not' style and Mu-R taking care of anything that has to do with abusing vinyl records via turntable.

I would love to add more links but their online presence is pretty pathetic so if your interest is piqued amazon.co.jp is probably the way to go.
posted by Frikki at 6:26 PM on January 21, 2008


In the latest issue of Signal to Noise there's an article about underground Japanese hip hop. Here are some of the artists featured.


Origami, 2
Rumi, 2, 3, 4
ari1010
KOCHITOLA HAGURETIC EMCEE'S, 2
posted by Kattullus at 12:20 AM on February 2, 2008


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