Anime Love & Hip-Hop with D.J. Lewis: The Past!

When you think of anime; the first thing that comes to mind for most people (if they happen to be fans) would be pioneering shows like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Cowboy Bebop. When it comes to Hip-Hop (depending on what generation you’re from); names like Tupac, Biggie Smalls, T.I., RZA, and Lil’ John to name a few. (Might as well throw Drake and Migos in there for extra credit.) If you’re a fan of these two subcultures, you’ve might have noticed that they’ve been crossing paths consistently over the last decade or so; but in actuality the relationship between the anime world and Hip-Hop culture goes back even further. I’ve covered this topic a few times over the last year or so, but there’s actually more to it that originally thought. So this time around, I’ll be breaking down the relationship and anime and Hip-Hop has in three parts; the Past, the Present, and the Future. So without further ado, here’s the Past (or How it all Started).

Samuel L. Jackson likes anime too

Back in the 1960’s anime was gaining ground in the popularity department throughout Western Culture. A couple of decades later a man by the name of Hiroshi Fujiwara made his return to Japan (after coming from the U.S.) and started playing some Old School Hip-Hop records. (This part I covered in my previous two-part post “Anime Love & Hip-Hop Part 1 and Part 2“.) This trend of course lead to the rise of Hip-Hop in Japan; or Japanese Hip-Hop, which is heavily influenced by Old School Hip-Hop beats, breakdancing, and the carefree 80’s attitude. (Grandmaster Flash comes to mind.) Also during the 80’s the influence of Hip-Hop notably made its way into the the anime world, as many anime creators during that time started incorporating more Western culture into their productions.

One of those productions in particular was Afro Samurai. In fact the creator of the series himself Takashi Okazaki stated that he used to draw African-American characters in Kleenex boxes when he was in his teens; due to his love for Hip-Hop and Soul music. During the creation process the creator incorporated elements of samurai into Afro’s design, which appears to be based off of the Black samurai known as Yasuke during the Sengoku Period of Japan. Throughout the 90’s anime titles even incorporated elements of Hip-Hop into their openings; like Samurai Champloo for example, thanks to the late Nujabes. Thanks to anime’s rise in popularity among Western audiences, the relationship between the medium and the subculture of Hip-Hop grew along with its popularity; which eventually lead to the rise of Nerdcore between the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Back when I was growing up in the 90’s I loved hip-Hop (and still do), but during that time I never really thought about the parallels that Hip-Hop culture has with anime. The topics and plots found in anime are quite parallel with that found in African-American communities; such as racism and poverty. The thought that these two subcultures were so connected on many levels never crossed my mind until 2017, but during the time I’ve had this blog with my buddy of 18 years (A. Goldman), I’ve learned a lot of things about the relationship of these two subcultures. Anime and Hip-Hop may appear different on paper, but they’re actually more connected than you’d think! 😉