Japan’s Influences on Hip-Hop
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck Japan, causing a devastating tsunami that swept over cities in the northern part of the country. The impact was such that the West Coast of the United States and South America were on high alert. Recorded at 9.0 on the Richter scale, it was the most powerful quake ever to hit the country. To date, the official death toll has risen over 9,500, and more than 16,000 people are listed as missing. The final toll is expected to reach nearly 20,000. In light of the recent tragedy, Rap’s all-stars are slowly stepping up to the plate to organize relief efforts. The Songs for Japan album, featuring artists such as Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Bruno Mars and Cee Lo Green, is now available on iTunes and a physical release is scheduled to hit stores on April. Proceeds from Songs for Japan will be directed to the Japanese Red Cross Society to help support those in need of relief. Though Em, Minaj and Cee Lo are contributing, hip-hop's been relatively quiet in supporting Japan. After Haiti's devastating earthquake last year, Wyclef Jean immediately stepped up to the plate, seemingly every MC took to Twitter to encourage donations to various organizations and loads of rappers took part in charity concerts. No one in hip-hop has taken the lead on relief efforts for Japan, which is surprising considering the huge influence it's had on hip-hop. As we continue to pray for the embattled country, XXL takes a look at the trends and MCs Japan's influenced from fashion to art and everywhere in-between. —Nicole Lopresti
“Japanese Denim, money stuffed in them, the coolest of the cars and the baddest of the women” – Rick Ross
Japanese culture is famous for its attention to detail and jeans are no exception. Japanese denim has a cult following in Europe and America because of its look and feel. Jay-Z, T.I. and Fabolous, just to name a few, favor Evisu, while Birdman and Bow Wow rock Red Monkey. Whenever he's not sporting Sean John, Diddy can be found wearing J Brand. Weezy, is a PRPS man himself.
A Bathing Ape
A Bathing Ape (or BAPE) is a Japanese clothing company founded by Nigo in 1993. The brand has collaborated with artists such as Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and KAWS. Pharrell and The Clipse have taken credit for making the brand so popular among rappers.
Comme Des Garçons
Don't let the french name fool you. The label was started in Tokyo by Rei Kawakubo in 1969 and established as a company in Japan in 1973. Jay-Z, Drake, Kanye West, and Wale are some of the brand's satisfied costumers. In case you couldn't make out this particular Jay line on H.A.M., the God MC said, "Comme des garcons, fuck yo fresh."
Japanese artist Takeshi Murakami is often called the Andy Warhol of Japan. He paints Japanese cultural objects and icons repetitiously and markets them on all sorts of products including keychains, mouse pads, t-shirts and Louis Vuitton handbags, to name a few. Hip-hop heads may know Murakami because of his work with Pharrell and may recognize him because he created Kanye West’s Graduation album cover.
Much of Japan's auto industry—the second largest supplier of cars in the world—remains idle due to disruptions triggered by Japan's earthquake and tsunami. In the weeks ahead, car buyers will have difficulty finding the model they want in certain colors. Brands such as Honda, Lexus, Suzuki, and Yamaha have been name-checked in rap.
The YMCMB princess came up with the term, “Harajuku Barbie” through her admiration of the Harajuku culture. Harajuku refers to the area around Tokyo's Harajuku Station. It is the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. "I love the Harajuku culture," says the MC. "The way they dress is the way I am on the inside. Free-spirited, girls that just wanna have fun, kick-ass...pop, rock-n-roll, whatever the f*ck you want to do, Hip-Hop. That's how I feel, and that's what my music is gonna feel like, when I do my album."
Mr. West shot his “Stronger” music video’’ over nine days in Japan. Directed by Hype Williams, the video includes shots filmed in Aoyama-based clothing store A Bathing Ape as well as Harajuku clothing store Billionaire Boys Club/Ice Cream. The video took over three months to complete and features an appearance by a real-life Japanese motorcycle gang. 'Ye's also worked with Takashi Murakami for his Graduation cover.
This Tokyo-bred turntablist and beatmaker has been leaving his mark on the culture since the mid '90s. He's released over a dozen LPs and has worked with artists like Mos Def, Dilated Peoples, KRS-One and De La Soul to name a few.