hip-hop: political movement or consumer fetish?

June 8, 2007

In Hip-Hop Japan, Ian Condry makes the argument that the booming hip-hop culture in Japan is not merely a case of mass imitation, but rather, an important creative vehicle of (political) self-expression for young people. Specifically, Condry claims that this thriving community in Japan plays a key role on the global scale in the dynamic evolution of hip-hop, and that this continuous feeding of hip-hop progress cannot be without the vital genba interactions between multiple participants in Japanese hip-hop. I feel like Condry’s position is a bit of an optimistic hyperbole. As with young people anywhere else in the world, most hip-hop fans in Japan probably exist for the purpose of novelty and pseudo-rebellion. In other words, this cultural phenomenon is not unlike the popularity of the Rock Against Bush CDs around 2004-2005 in the United States: generally speaking, young people simply need something to rebel against to feel deviant and cool, and it is not necessary for them to understand their alleged cause at all. This theory of hip-hop’s popularity would explain: a) why the conservative political atmosphere perseveres in Japan (as Nori testified) in spite of the political agenda of the entire Japanese hip-hop community, and b) why there are virtually no hip-hop fans in Japan over the age of 30. Furthermore, the extensive inter- and intra-cultural exchange of information in the global hip-hop world doesn’t, in the end, lend any authenticity to the collective consciousness of the Japanese hip-hop community. Indeed, genba exchanges do not involve any creative contributions to the development of Japanese hip-hop; what happens is usually just the spread of newest musical and material products. In other words, the popularity of products, rather than that of any political progress, is what really holds the Japanese hip-hop community together, and these products are often derived from imitating other pre-existing products. This arbitrary trend to imitate the clothing, mannerisms, hairstyles, pastimes (ex. graffiti), and even skin color of leading figures in American hip-hop is enough to reveal that the lifestyle of the Japanese hip-hop culture (which, according to Condry, is integral to the spirit of Japanese hip-hop) is not only ahistorical, but also irrelevant to the various political causes of the hip-hop artists. Moreover, this irrelevance and lack of cultural coherence suggests that the hip-hop culture in Japan is, alas, nothing more than yet another consumer fetish.

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Mimi246 on J-pop music (3)

April 30, 2007

Mimi246 wrote another entry on this topic on April 27, adding some more significant trends. -tomomi

After I finished writing the previous entry, I realized and thought “oh..!”. My list totally lacked the “visual-kei” artists.

The genres that I didn’t include as I knew their existence but didn’t know very well include Japanese Reggae, for example. I am not that knowledgable about R&B, too. Quite a few female R&B singers appeared after Hikaru Utada’s debut, but my memory is very vague about them.

One more thing that I think I should mention is the post-90s rock in Japan. Many bands with lots of personality appeared in this period.

Blankey Jet City “Pepin” (1)
Guitar Wolf “Jet Generation
thee michelle gun elephant “Birdmen
NUMBER GIRL “NUM-AMI-DABUTZ
Quruli, “Akai Densha

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Mimi246 on J-pop music (2)

April 30, 2007

This is a part 2 of mini246’s entry. Again, very rough translation – sorry for my mistakes! -tomomi

There were quite a few musicians who were active abroad, but I had an impression that those who are supposed by local musicians and music lovers, regardless of the trend of “showbiz” promotions and hit charts, increased in the beginning of the 90s. Especially I remember Boredoms and Shonen Knife, who were supported by alternative rock lovers in the U.S. Boredoms were in touch with Sonic Youth, and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana claimed that he loved Shonen Knife. I got to know of the band, Shonen Knife, for the first time when I was in San Francisco and a guy there who loved alternative music taught me. At the time, I only knew of the bands that were commercially successful and covered in the mass media, and I couldn’t realize the greatness of their music at first. The alternative guy, however, said, “they are doing the “honest” music,” which, I think, shows why those who were not satisfied with commercialized music supported them. At the same time, both Boredoms and Shone Knife were not sticked with the imitation of British-American music,” despite the fact that they sing in English.
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Japanese blogger, mimi246, on the history of pop music (1)

April 27, 2007

Here is my translation of the blog enty by mini246 – this is just a casual and rough translation, and forgive me for my gramatical errors etc. But I hope you could see what mini246 wants to introduce, based on her own experience of growing up in Japan. And she introduces us so many youtube links!
-Tomomi

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The class on Japanese culture at the University of Chicago was something! So I will try to add my personal take on the history of postwar Japanese pop music

I saw Popular Culture In/Out of Japan blog, of a class taught by Tomomi Yamaguchi at the University of Chicago, via the April 14 entry of her blog. I initially thought that the class focuses on manga and anime, because Phoenix and Genshiken were introduced as required readings. When I saw the content, however, it wasn’t limited to only manga and anime. I was surprised to see how deep the content related to music was. Rather than deep, the content was filled with love (for music), and especially, I wonder where they could research so much on Shinbuya-kei. I had so much fun reading this entry. Bravo!
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Japanese blogger responded to this blog!

April 26, 2007

A Japanese blogger, mimi246, wrote an entry in response to the entry in this blog posted by Sean.

http://d.hatena.ne.jp/mimi246/20070425

I will translate her entry into English and post it onto this blog very soon, so stay tuned!


Stylin’ Pose (with addition!)

April 15, 2007

Polly Pocket DJ

I happened upon this while at Walgreens, and originally thought that it was a female Polly Pocket DJ figure, and thought “oh, this is interesting.”

But upon uploading the picture, I found out that it was actually a male figure. And that the box encouraged you to “Style his hair!” and even comes with a little brush.

Just thought it was interesting that, while there are now “girl” dolls for DJs, the DJ isn’t actually a girl, and it’s made so that you can play with it just as you play with your other dolls. As if DJ is really just a fashion statement.

So I guess this gets girls ready for the dance-party culture waiting for them in 10 years?

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dumb type on youtube

April 14, 2007

Found some “dumb type” vids, that Kiku introduced in class, on youtube.

dumb type-memorandum (Chapter 2-1)

The rest..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZ5uGjjAvNI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbSXbK-EpYY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35s5IobfwRQ