by Key-Kool

Everybody knows that an American hip-hop artist that
performs in Japan gets mad jocked. Scores of groupies mob from show
to show, eagerly waiting by entrances of venues to catch a glimpse
of their favorite performer. Audiences get further than open when
the first beat cuts through the humid atmosphere.. Autographs are
signed in mass abundance and merchandise can be sold for
unreasonable prices. Peering across the room full of many fake dred
heads, young women with tanning saloon complexions, and more fresh
gear than a hip-hopper could ever dream of having, brings up the
question, "How many of these people really embody hip-hop?"


Being a sansei, third-generation Japanese-American that
studied the lanquage, I was able to utilize my Japanese
conversational skills in Japan to briefly analyze their hip-hop
scene during a two-week period. This was my first visit to my
motherland and I would have never thought hip-hop would be the
vehicle to take me there, but it did, and I was all up in it from
start to finish.
Japan is the shit, not only because of the technological
advances, or the abundance of fine young women, but because of the
respect they give to American hip-hop artists. Being that Japan is
an incredibly overcrowded country, it is a societal code for working
people to maintain a calm stature in public, school, and the work
place during daytime hours. Yet, this voluntary supression needs to
be released... sometime, and many individuals have discovered
hip-hop as the releasing medium. Therefore, U.S. hip-hop artists are
given more than mad props, even somewhat idolized. Now, whether
these individuals are viewed as adoring fans or perpetrators, most
artists won`t argue that setting off audiences into a frenzy during
a show doesn`t feel good.

Hip-Hop in Japan is growing at an incredible pace, and yes,
this does mean many "bandwagoning" type individuals that lack
understanding of the culture as a whole do exist. But isn`t this
true in the U.S. as well, with a bunch of kids exposed to rap solely
on commercial radio, or the cable television, who claim to love rap
but are ignorant of the under goings of the hip-hop world?
Potentially, some of these individuals will grow and learn to love
this culture and those other superficial ones will leave as quick as
they came (for the better). The point is, just as there are
"uninformed individuals" in Japan and the U.S. we must remember that
they are still fans. The difference is that in Japan most fans don`t
let egos get in the way of expressing their enjoyment of a
performance. Most importantly, true hip-hop heads do exist in both
countries as well, and dopeness is simply dopeness.

Within the ranks of the experienced hip-hoppers of Japan
exists a core of skilled individuals. For instance, Japan DMC
Champion DJ Tashi (from Tokyo) digs deep into his collection to
perfect routines and mix tapes utilizing rare original breaks and
hardcore underground U.S. hip-hop. Tashi prefers American rap
artists over Japanese artists because he feels that with an
exception of a few groups, Japanese hip-hoppers need to develop
their own original flavors. On top of his dj skills, Tashi, a true
hip-hopper, carries his radio everywhere, playing the dopest shit
and fiending for the newest shit he can bump in his boombox. Osaka`s
DJ Yoshi is committed to bringing up groups from Japan by producing
and using their music on his mix tapes or dj routines. Yoshi
ingeniously incorporates a blend of Japanese comedy records, U.S.
hip-hop, Japanese hip-hop, and freaks them is his own unique way.
Philosophies do differ, but the skills and creativity of Tashi and
Yoshi, as hip-hoppers, can`t be fronted on.


Vestax (who has the dopest dj mixer we`ve seen in years), is
the premiere up and coming company dedicated to give the DJ`s "what
they want" as far as hip-hop dj equipment and exposing the DJ realms
to Japan. They held DJ Quest 95, a concert showcasing the world`s
top dj`s, which included: my partner, the all around hip-hop head DJ
Rhettmatic, the world famous brother from the demented dimension DJ
Q-Bert, the humble turntable annihilator DJ Shortkut, sake master DJ
8-Ball, Japan DMC champions DJ Yoshi and DJ Tashi, and myself on the
microphone. In Japan, learning to DJ is the current craze, and it`s
up to the top notch DJ`s to school them, not on how to dj, but to
teach them the mentality of being a DJ, relative to the hip-hop
culture. Therefore, Japanese fans were treated to dj routines, MC/DJ
routines, raw impromptu sessions, interviews, and the whole works to
help expose the importance of individuality of artistic expression,
rather than superficial image.


Just as hip-hop vibes vary between New York, Los Angeles,
and San Francisco, the hip-hop scenes in Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima
each reflect their own uniqueness. R-Hall, a prime club in Tokyo was
a packed house with a combination of b-boys hitting the floors, to a
group of undeniably fine Japanese smoothies. DJ Takada, an
underground DJ from Tokyo explained that this crowd was a
combination of hip-hop mixed with the "meat market" spot to pick up
girls. He further expressed his disgust with those "suckas" that
front as hip-hop heads to pursue these women, and the usually more
commercial selection of the club's regular DJ`s. After Rhettmatic
and I performed, a Japanese rapper stepped to me and freestyles off
the top of his head completely in Japanese. The content of his rhyme
was basically to show me that kids in Japan rhymed, introduced
himself as "T-O-N-Y", and that he wanted to cypher. It was an
experience to vibe with someone in another country, made possible by
the means of hip-hop.


Japanese youth are embracing hip-hop. Japanese DJ`s, b-boys,
writers, and lyricists have a love for our expressive culture.
Hip-Hop is universal,and the positives and negatives exist
universally as well. Therefore, core individuals must continue to
strive for elevation of expression, locally or worldwide, and
besides, dopeness or wackness is relative to every person. Although
some are involved for "trendy" reasons some will learn and the true
heads will continue striving to uplift the culture as a whole. I say
praises due to all those who can contribute to the spectrum of the
kaleidoscope realms of the culture, and at the same remember, fans
will be fans.