Sometime in the 80’s in a little place called the South Bronx a new and raw sound was starting to emerge. It was more than just the language of ‘the streets’, it was the language of African-American culture. These days whenever people think of Hip-Hop a few names come to mind; Kanye West, Drake, Travis Scott, you name it. Being from the 90’s ourselves we grew up with people like Sir-Mix-a-Lot, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube.
Hip-Hop was more than just about the music, it was the lifestyle and culture that came with it. Anime on the other hand was something different; it was a vast new world of animation filled with vivid colors and complex plots that was different than what you would find in western animation. If these two subcultures are vastly different from one another, how in the world did they come together in the first place? Well guys and girls, we’re about to tell you the the love story between anime and hip-hop…
Hip-Hop made its first appearance in Japan back in the 80’s thanks to Japanese DJ Hiroshi Fujiwara, after being in the U.S. during that time before bringing back some records with him. From there it spread like wildfire; as hip-hop was now being infused with various other styles such as jazz, EDM, pop, and so many others. This relationship may seem farfetched to some, but with anime being the audio-visual medium that it is, creators and music producers are always looking and trying new ways to reach out to western audiences. It’s almost like mixing different ice cream flavors together, until you come up with a concoction that takes your taste buds on a journey.
A lot of great titles infuse hip-hop into their soundtracks and stories. One title that demonstrates this would be Samurai Champloo. When you listen to the opening title song, you’re introduced to a track that’s a mixed blend of urban rap with the culture of Feudal Japan. Another title that comes to mind when you’re talking about anime and hip-hop’s relationship would be Afro Samurai. Yep, the one with Samuel L. Jackson and Lucy Lu (from Charlie’s Angels) in it.
Various artists like RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Lotus Juice, the late Nujabes and a few others have contributed to a lot of the tracks from many of our favorite anime titles. (Even the “Never Say Never” opening to Danganronpa: The Animation.) Hip-Hop in anime is more than just the unique blends and styles infused with audio and visual esthetics, its also about the style, the grooming, and the ‘gear’ that is associated with hip-hop. In the 80’s it was about the ‘LL Cool J’ type of look, but as the 90’s and 2000’s rolled around we’ve got gold chains, grills, watches, skinny jeans, Jordans (or Air-Force Ones from back in the day), the whole nine yards! The Tokyo Tribe series created by Santa Inoue is an example of this, as it brings in various elements of hip-hop culture, and even has a live-action hip-hop musical as well.
With all of the new shows that are coming out this year, there’s no doubt that there will be more hip-hop and anime collaborations, and new ways where artists and creators can express themselves while also paying homage to hip-hop culture.
PART 2 is coming up tomorrow! Stay tuned! 😉