Alice Ridley – Navigating Japanese Rap

Exploring the ideas around J-rap content, black influence, and the rise of Japanese artists into the global stage

Breaking Down the Bars

When you think of Japanese music you probably think of very feminine stereotypes which are constantly being portrayed in mainstream media.

You imagine the street interviews between the interviewer and the interviewee (usually foreign women) saying surprised remarks about the men like “Are they a girl?” and “Are they gay?”

This is obviously a bit insensitive towards the perceived beauty standards of Japan. But those images of Japanese artists are usually pretty generic and mass produced.

First and foremost, I am not shunning J-pop/K-pop. From time to time, I thrash to some BTS. I just also think it’s time to shine some light on the more underground sounds of Japan.

As I talk about further on, J-rap is often mentioned as an imitation of the West when in reality, Japan has been able to create their own rich culture around this music genre

Defining the Dialogue

Across this article, the use of J-rap/hip hop will be used interchangeably. Furthermore, whilst doing research for this article it should be mentioned that this is not just a music genre, but something far greater.

It is inclusive of how the person dresses, the way they wear their hair, the way they use language and even how they move their bodies. To its core, hip hop is a way of life that “is fundamentally socially-critical, anti-mainstream, and profoundly creative” (The Jet Coaster). In a collective society such as Japan, this behaviour is uncommon.

That is why I find this movement so provocative.

Hip Hop Hopping over to Japan

Hiroshi’s Hip Hop

J-rap emerged in the early 1980s by the notorious Hiroshi Fujiwara, who was later dubbed the first hip hop DJ of Japan. Hiroshi visited New York …continue reading