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True Hip Hop Culture in Japan

Page history last edited by ife barrett-bossert 9 years, 9 months ago

          True Hip Hop Culture in Japan



Hip Hop culture is a way of life consisting of four key elements:  The MC (microphone controller not Master of ceremony), DJ (disc jockey), B-Boy (Break dancer), and Graffiti artist. Hip Hop is not Gangsta rap; Gangsta rap is a nightmarish spinoff  that murdered Hip Hop and everything that it stands for. Hip Hop culture began in the Bronx, NY, and eventually spread through the five boroughs in the ghettos via the street/park or block party circuit which included a DJ and/or an MC and the street dancers. In America, Hip Hop is a throwback to the newly evolved Rap game where the key element is simply "Bling". True Hip Hop culture has been dead in the states for many years (thanks to the record deal); With it's wabi sabi beginnings, I would say the death of HipHop was inevitable.  


This page will focus on the visual aspects of Hip Hop: Breaking (dancing) and Graffiti. Hip Hop was being played in Japanese discos prior to the introduction of breakdancing and graffiti. Japan's youth didn't realize how cool the culture was until they were given a visual aspect where language could not be a barrier.


According to first generation Japanese MC, Takagi Kan, "I couldn't tell what was with the rap and the DJing...but with the breakdancing and graffiti, you could understand it visually. Or rather, it wasn't understanding so much as, 'Whoa, that's cool'. With rap and DJing, I couldn't imagine what could be cool about it." 




The Graffiti 







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In NYC, Graffiti artists would typically paint a spot that was risky for example a bridge or in a subway tunnel. The art was mainly appreciated by the underground Hip Hop community and mostly rejected by the general public.


In Japan, graffiti art is called Rackgacki (slang term), the technical term is rakugaki.  It is the same as in NY, and it can carry a heavy fine in Japan. The following link contains a very informative video. For more complete RackGacki documentary and information, visit the following link: http://makeshiftrecords.ca/blog/2009/03/29/rackgaki-japanese-graffiti-culture/




Breakdancing (B-boy/B-girl)



According to documentaries, The Freshest Kids (interviews of breakdancing pioneers)and Planet B-boy (chronicles the largest breakdancing competition in the world),  the coolest element of Hip Hop culture became publicized internationally by the movies, Wildstyle and Flashdance. Although, The Freshest Kids, a documentary chroniclining the B-boy explosion in America, portrays the movie as the beginning of the exploitation of breakdancers; Flashdance was responsible for giving young Hip Hoppers the opportunity to showcase their talents to the world. Suddenly, teens from the inner city slums of N.Y became international role models overnight.


Japan's own Renaissance man, Hiroshi Fujiwara, godfather of Harujuku, designer, musician, etc. is credited with introducing Japan to Hip Hop music in the 1980's.






Breakdancing was taken to another level in Japan. Japanese breakdancers make it "more than just a hobby", which is what it was originally to the young breakdancers who pioneered this dance style. It's touching to see the level at which they embrace it.  My favorite Japanese Bboy group, Ichigeki, rehearsed many months for their place in the largest breakdancing competition of the year, Battle of the Year.




I. Breakdancing - THE BATTLE

   Japan and Korea- Battle of the Year


Many would argue that Korea is the best, but I believe they have an athletic advantage on Japan. However, Japan has an advantage on style. In my opinion, the style and the attitude is what embodies Hip Hop, not how many tricks one can perform. Japan has some amazing tricks as well because the athletic aspect is necessary, but style and attitude (flava or swagg) cannot be compromised. The best thing about Hip Hop culture is that you don't always have to follow the rules. So, why don't you judge the battle between Japan and Korea for yourself and decide who displays the best qualities!












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