The Inexorable Rise of Japanese Hip-Hop

Most of us associate classic hip-hop with the East Coast of the United States. Although this is true to a large extent, we need to remember that hip-hop has evolved into a global phenomenon over the past few decades. You may also be slightly surprised to learn that this music was already present in Japan from the late 1980s.

While learning Japanese online is a great idea if you wish to appreciate the lyrics associated with famous artists, it is equally important to look at the roots of Asian hip-hop to better appreciate where we may be headed.

The Origins

Many industry experts will credit Japanese DJ Hiroshi Fujiwara with introducing hip-hop to mainstream Japanese culture. It is said that he fell in love with this genre after a trip to New York City. He then chose to purchase a handful of records and to bring them back to Japan.

Fujiwara soon began mimicking the beats and rhythms that served to define 1980s hip-hop at the time. However, we also need to remember that urban areas such as Tokyo had not been exposed to this type of music before. It was therefore taken with a grain of salt and if anything, the overall reception was lukewarm at best. Some would even argue that it was largely ignored by mainstream Japanese culture. However, all of this was about to change.

The Rise of the Internet

Dial-up Internet was first introduced to Japan during the latter half of the 1990s. It did not take long for large music-sharing websites to make their presence known. While hip-hop was still considered to represent nothing more than a fledgling genre, it began to appeal to younger generations and to those who were already fans of western music.

Another important influence involved the numerous live breakdancing contests which emerged during the late 1980s and into the 1990s. Many of these competitions featured tracks from famous artists at the time such as The Beastie Boys and Run DMC. When the events were streamed online, they soon developed a large (if not slightly underground) following. Still, the die had been cast and it was only a matter of time before hip-hop became a household term in Japan.

Modern Times

Thanks to the many television shows that now incorporate domestically produced hip-hop within their soundtracks, Japan has entered into the mainstream community. This has also allowed numerous talented artists to make their presence known. Examples include Shing02, Kohh, Rip Slyme, and the Teriyaki Boyz.

This leads us to a final question. Will Japanese hip-hop have the same influence upon the western world in the future? While the verdict is still out, there is no doubt that this style of music now appeals to multiple generations of listeners. There could very well come a time when Japanese artists are featured alongside well-known hip-hop icons. Of course, it will be interesting to see what the future has in store.

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