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Hip Hop’s Globalization and Influence of Hip-Hop Music in Japan


Globalization has affected every aspect of people’s existence, with one significant consequence being exposure to music genres previously known to only a few people. When compared to the West, Japanese society and culture differ significantly, which impacted the development of music in these parts of the world. However, 20th-century Japanese music was affected by Western traditions, more specifically by hip hop. During this century, the Japanese hip-hop culture emerged and was influenced by the soul and break dancing style of African Americans. A Japanese DJ, Hiroshi Fujiwara, first brought hip-hop music to his home country, but it became popular only after being featured on mainstream TV shows. The United States’ hip-hop culture changes the standards and perception of music in Japan during the 20th century.

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Characteristics of Hip Hop

Hip hop differs from other music genres in how the music is structured, the use of rhythm, and the lyrics’ performance. Rapping or “MCing” involves the performance of poems rhythmically emphasizing rhyme schemes or rhyming (Edwards 6). In Japan, the contemporary musical culture results from the old-school hip hop, which brought to the Japanese many African-American elements common in the United States, including music collaborations, unconventional dancing moves, and catchy beats. However, initially, this genre emerged as a cultural movement of African Americans during the 1970s (Charles 5). Hip hop was a part of the African American community’s culture and identity in the United States but globalization allowed other nations to contribute to the development of this genre.

Southern Rap Songs

One of the prominent examples of hip-hop music from the United States that promoted this genre was an album by 2LC titled “As Nasty As They Wanna Be.” The song “Me So Horny,” which is the first one on this album, features explicit lyrics (The South Got Something To Say). Apart from this, the song showcases one of the central elements of hip-hop music—sampling. For example, in the beginning, the song features words from the film “Full Metal Jacket,” where a man asks, “what do we get for ten dollars?” Next, the song proceeds into a beat, a set of drum sounds that repeat throughout a song.

There are four verses in this song, which are divided by a repeating group of phrases, for example, “Me love you long time!” and samples from the movie (Younger and Carmichael). The verses are rapped to the beat, each verse performed by a different member of 2LC. The song “Me So Horny” by 2LC is a classic example of a Southern Rap song from the 1980s, which features a simple beat, sampled elements, a rhythm scheme achieved through a repeating drum beat, and repetition of phrases in between verses.

Another classic rap song from the Southern Rap Songs period is by D.O.C. The song “It’s Funky Enough.” This song’s prominent characteristics are the combination of beat and rapping that create the rhythm. The song’s chorus repeats and features the exact beat ad words, hip hop development “It’s getting funky, it’s getting funky” (Younger and Carmichael). This song features DJ-type of sounds in the beginning, resembling a record that has been stuck. The drumbeat creates the instrumental basis for this song and sets the rhythm. Similar to the sog by 2LC, “It’s Funky Enough” is an example of classic rap, where their artists use simple and repeating drum beats, samples from other music or films, and rap to the instrumental drum beat.

Hip Hop in Japan

In Japan, Hip Hop began gaining widespread attention from audiences at the end of the 20th century. Unlike the Western tradition, hip-hop music in Japan does not have explicit lyrics. However, it features all the other elements of this genre: beat, repeating scheme of beats, distinct rhythm, sampling, and rapping instead of singing. Hiroshi Fujiwara is a Japanese Dj who brought the genre to his homeland. Prominent musician and producer Hiroshi Fujiwara made hip hop popular in Japan. During an excursion to New York in the 1980s and after arriving back, he became the first Japanese DJ to produce rap songs and recorded his first hip-hop albums, which promoted this genre (Attride and Richards). However, long after Fujiwara began playing hip hop tracks in Tokyo, this genre had a limited fan base.

In Japan, hip hop was initially perceived as a foreign trend. However, this genre evolved, and it became a popular local trend and part of modern Japanese pop culture (Attride and Richards). During the early stages, rappers in Japan emulated their American counterparts in lyrics. They tended to translate poetry into English because they feared that Japanese words might not rhyme easily (Attride and Richards).

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Eventually, these songwriters began producing rap in their language since it was a form of identity that differentiated them from their international counterparts. Therefore, hip-hop music in Japan was influenced by old-school hip hop but has evolved and developed into its genre. Initially, Japan’s hip-hop community was small, and performances were limited to some fans’ gatherings (Attride and Richards). Hip-hop-themed television shows promoted this music among the general audience and contributed to its commercial popularity. Hence, the development of hip hop in Japan began with features in popular television shows, which helped this genre become mainstream.

The song “Kon’ya wa būgi bakku” was the first commercially successful hip-hop track in Japan. This work was released by Schadaraparr in 1994 and had many similarities to the Southern Rap Songs. However, one essential difference is that the rapper sings a verse at the beginning of this song (Scha Dara Parr feat. Ozawa Kenji). The signing is followed by a rap verse, written and performed in Japanese. Similar to the American rap songs, the rap part of “Kon’ya wa būgi bakku” is accompanied by a simple drum beat. Hence, “Kon’ya wa būgi bakku” is a merge between the Western and Japanese approaches to making rap music, which features a simple beat, lyrics in Japanese, and singing verses.


In summary, this paper reviews the Southern Rap Songs era’s influence on hip-hop music development in Japan during the 20th century. While Hip Hop culture originated and became popular in the United States, other countries have not been left behind. It consists of two significant elements often referred to as beat making and rapping, which are unique, and allow this genre to stand out from other types of music. The components mentioned above comprise rhyme, often referred to as rapping, and beats that create a background. Hiroshi Fujiwara brought hip hop to Japan, and this genre became commercially successful in this country. As a result, its hip-hop culture has become famous beyond the United States’ borders, where it had emerged.

Works Cited

Attride, Tiana and Richards, Ben. “The Rise of Tokyo’s Global Hip Hop Scene.” Here Magazine. Web.

Charles, Dan. The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop. New American Library, 2010.

Edwards, Paul. “What is Hip-Hop?” The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music: a Fresh Look at the Art of Hip-Hop, from Old-School Beats to Freestyle Rap. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015.

“Scha Dara Parr feat. Ozawa Kenji – Kon’ya wa būgi bakku (Boogie Back Tonight).” Connexion Hip Hop. 2010. Web.

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“The South Got Something To Say: A Celebration Of Southern Rap.” NPR. 2020. Web.

Younger, Briana and Rodney Carmichael. “’The South Got Something To Say’ Is A Celebratory Canon Of Southern Rap.NPC. 2020. Web.

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