Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization

Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization Ian Condry Duke University Press Books, 2006

Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization
Ian Condry
Duke University Press Books, 2006

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In this lively ethnography Ian Condry interprets Japan’s vibrant hip-hop scene, explaining how a music and culture that originated halfway around the world is appropriated and remade in Tokyo clubs and recording studios. Illuminating different aspects of Japanese hip-hop, Condry chronicles how self-described “yellow B-Boys” express their devotion to “black culture,” how they combine the figure of the samurai with American rapping techniques and gangsta imagery, and how underground artists compete with pop icons to define “real” Japanese hip-hop. He discusses how rappers manipulate the Japanese language to achieve rhyme and rhythmic flow and how Japan’s female rappers struggle to find a place in a male-dominated genre. Condry pays particular attention to the messages of emcees, considering how their raps take on subjects including Japan’s education system, its sex industry, teenage bullying victims turned schoolyard murderers, and even America’s handling of the war on terror.

Condry attended more than 120 hip-hop performances in clubs in and around Tokyo, sat in on dozens of studio recording sessions, and interviewed rappers, music company executives, music store owners, and journalists. Situating the voices of Japanese artists in the specific nightclubs where hip-hop is performed—what musicians and fans call the genba (actual site) of the scene—he draws attention to the collaborative, improvisatory character of cultural globalization. He contends that it was the pull of grassroots connections and individual performers rather than the push of big media corporations that initially energized and popularized hip-hop in Japan. Zeebra, DJ Krush, Crazy-A, Rhymester, and a host of other artists created Japanese rap, one performance at a time.

Ian Condry

About Ian Condry

Ian Condry s a cultural anthropologist of Japan and professor at MIT since 2002. He is the author of two books, Hip-Hop Japan and The Soul of Anime, both of which explore globalization from below. The books are available for free, thanks to Creative Commons and Duke University Press: mit.academia.edu/IanCondry. In the fall of 2019, he launched the MIT Spatial Sound Lab, a community production studio for immersive, multiperspective, sonic experimentation. Among the goals is to provide a space for using sound to disrupt hierarchies, reduce inequalities, and cross borders. He is co-organizer of Dissolve Music, a sound conference and music festival, in 2018 and 2020 (mitdissolve.com). Since 2018, he is the radio DJ for Near and Far, a Japanese hip-hop show, on WMBR 88.1FM Cambridge, and online at wmbr.org, alternating Wednesdays, 6-7pm. Archive at mixcloud.com/iancondry. Since 2006, he has organized the MIT / Harvard Cool Japan research project, which explores the critical potential of popular culture. He is currently working on a book about musicians on the margins in Tokyo, Boston, and Berlin.

 
 

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