J-rap is an intriguing genre if anything. A lot of the vernacular is taken from the US Rap scene, but according to the wikipedia article, Japanese rappers are able to “express themselves in a more Japanese style, both in basic language and in regard to themes”. Yet when I went over there back in 2005, I sampled what was current on the Tokyo scene (aka “The Bay Area”). I heard a lot of shit, and everyone wanted to sound like a Japanese DMXâ€”Barks and all.
But forreals though, Japan’s hip-hop/rap scene is developing into its own, and some of that shit bangs! Some of the pop stuff like the Teriyaki Boyz is aight (think Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift), but the real gold is in the underground rap/hip-hop scene.
Nitro Microphone Underground is one of the first j-rap artists who didn’t sell out and pop out their act, and were recognized by the industry for it. With “Down the Line”, the members of the group (Dabo, Macka-chin, Deli, Suiken, Gore-Tex, S-Word, XBS, and Bigzamâ€”its like a Japanese Wu-Tang) take turns passing the mic after 24 bars. Each distinctive flow & swagger is punctuated by a beat the hits the rewind button between each rapper, giving the track a fresh restart each time.
In “10 Muri”, you might recognize some famous samples which are long standbys in the rap producer’s lingua franca. And the memorable, chanting chorus “ã‘ã£ã“ã€ãƒžã‚¸ã€ã‘ã£ã“ã€ãƒžã‚¸ï¼” (kekko maji kekko maji – “I’m fine. Forreals?”) knocks up the appeal.
“Akugidenwa (Prank Call)” has a lot of the crazy space shit that Japanese producers (and Pharrell) love to include in the background of their tracks. Just as how the Neptunes craft the perfect beat that matches a particular artist’s style, NMU’s hard-hitting delivery matches the repetitive beat perfectly, and shows off the crazy potential of japanese lyricism.
By keeping true to hip-hop (w/o the beats, the MCs are nothin!) NMU makes sure that even if you can’t understand their flow, you can at the very least listen to some high-tempo production with some of the craziest loops since the Neptunes.
Speaking of loops, I also copped some Nujabes shit over there, but couldn’t find anything from Fat Jon or Tsutchie (shoutout to Champloo Fans!). Note: I didn’t look TOO hard.
You see, Japan is a crazy place for hip hop gear collectors. Not only vinyl, but shit from all 4 elements have a strong representation in Japan, whether through special limited editions gear, crazy tech, or bumpin producers. There are even services out there where you pay people to peruse through Japan’s crazy used CD/Book/Video stores to look for that vintage recording/print that you just can’t find anywhere else. I don’t even wanna talk about the shoe/streetwear scene over there. BAPE is a Japanese phenom after all.