Ian Condry Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization 2006 Duke University Press
In this ethnography of Japanese hip hop, the author Condry focuses one of the four elements which constitute hip hop culture: rap. It is because rap has much more to do with language than deejaying, breaking or graffiti, and it, therefore, reflects the characteristics of Japanese hip hop most eloquently.
Throughout the book, Condry consciously avoids using easy dichotomies; globalization or localization, party rap or underground hip hop, market success or hard core fandom, and the like. Instead, he uses Japanese term genba, actual sites where interactions among many kinds of people(emcees, deejays, fans, club owners, executives of record companies and so on) take place, as a key tool of analysis.
Although hip hop in Japan, as Condry explains, has got more popularity through this decade than it had before, it, especially rapping in Japanese, still seems somewhat stigmatized, for example, as an embarrassing, unnatural imitation of African Americans. Even if so, it is also true that for some young Japanese it has become a real way of expression. Here I give two examples.
It is common in rap music to describe the tough world that rappers are coming from, like what is recognized as gangsta rap. While not a few rappers in Japan take that kind of American gang style, Oni doesn't choose to act like a gangsta. Rather, his style, I mean, what and how he raps, moves and wears, reminds me of a word chinpira, or of array of sad youth stories of Showa era like so-called V-Cinema.
The second might be extreme example. At the first sight, AreiRaise's right-winged(though they deny), nationalistic statement, with which I do not agree, and its expression in the form of rap, which is clearly imported from the country that defeated Japan, may look strange, or even contradictory. But, rapping about patriotic feeling at Yasukuni shrine might not be unnatural for them. So here I suppose, beyond good or bad, that it can be asserted there has been hip hop generation in Japan.
Well, I myself, being not a devoted Japanese hip hop fan but a listener of whim, prefer poetic and conscious styles like Tha Blue Herb or Shing02. But there are many aspects of Japanese hip hop, which are diversifying continuously, as Condry describes persuasively in the book. And I want to keep watching them as long as possible.