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

When last I posted I was talking about how the subcultures of anime and Hip-Hop crossed paths and came together during the 80’s and early 90’s. Even though the relationship was starting to bloom during that era in time, it wasn’t until 1997 that both subcultures took it to the next level. Unlike Western animation that at one point in time did depict real-life situations such as discrimination, poverty, and violence (early X-Men episodes and several from Captain Planet), Japanese animation took on the fabric of said situations that have attracted the youth-driven culture of Hip-Hop. Several artist that come to mind in terms of the ‘nerdy side’ of Hip-Hop would be the late MF Doom, MegaRan, and Ghostface Killah. As a lot people might’ve noticed (if you happen to be a fan of anime and Hip-Hop) the biggest anime references have been from Dragon Ball Z and Naruto; both of which are heavy-hitter titles that have drawn inspiration from many corners of the African-American community through fashion as well as Hip-Hop.

The Akatsuki bout’ to drop a mixtape!

Several well-known rappers have made tons of references to these titles as you might’ve heard in their lyrics. Others took it a step further and re-created scenes from popular anime; such as Kanye West’s “Stronger” which was heavily inspired by Akira, the 1988 film. The connection between anime and Hip-Hop culture isn’t just in America, it’s also relevant in British Hip-Hop as well. Although you have anime-inspired rappers like Lil’ Uzi Vert and Shababii, one of the most anime-influenced rappers who even has his whole persona rooted in the subculture itself, is Scarlxrd. His sound took on an infusion of Trap music and Heavy Metal; two genres that you normally do see together let alone being fused together. Scarlxrd’s inspiration from anime comes from the popular fan-favorite title known as Tokyo Ghoul; where he even wears the zipped mask that bares heavy resemblance to Ken Kaneki.

The cultural crossover between anime and Hip-Hop has led to various other achievements in the medium; from the level of inclusion of African-American characters in anime, to titles being soundtracked by Hip-Hop through artists like RZA and the late Nujabes. (Japanese Hip-Hop artist Lotus Juice also did Death the Kid’s “So Crazy” theme from Soul Eater as well.) From my view point it seems like the relationship between anime and Hip-Hop will continue to evolve, as upcoming artists are finding their creative sides through the layers of both subcultures. If you jump on YouTube right now you’ll find soooo many Hip-Hop/Rap cyphers about anime titles and characters, that you’ll think its crazy! Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line we’ll have a record label dedicated to anime-inspired Hip-Hop. That is…if it’s not already been done. (*chuckles*)

On my next post will be the conclusion to me three-part series of post between the subcultures of anime, and Hip-Hop. Until next time, stay safe and love one another! 🙂 

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! 😉

Anime Love & Hip-Hop: The Remix!

Anime, and Hip-Hop. What is it about these two cultures that seem to cross paths on many different occasions on many different platforms. From football to wrestling anime has now become mainstream, and with that comes brand new fans that you’d never thought would be anime fans. (Meg Thee Stallion and Lil’ Nas X comes to mind.) The love between anime and hip-hop has brought about the surge of anime nerdcore rappers; such as Mega Ran, King Shabazz, and many others. For some of us we remember how this relationship got started, and if you want the full story on that click here.

There’s so much that has come out of this collaboration between anime and hip-hop, that now; especially in these times filled with racial injustice against African-Americans, there are more People of Color appearing in not just anime, but also ADR directors, writers, and creators. One studio that comes to mind is D’ART Shtajio; a Black-owned American anime studio in Japan that’s really coming up in the anime production scene. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see their work, check it out here!

If you thought that was cool, this anime studio even did the animation behind the music video of the Weeknd’s new track; Snowchild!

In short; anime and hip-hop have been doin’ it big since day one, and it doesn’t look like this relationship will be souring any time soon. With anime becoming more diverse with each new series, hip-hop will always be right by its side. That’ll do it for this little remix of mine, but if you want to check out the original post that sparked this ‘remix’, the links are down below!

Anime Love & Hip-Hop: Part 1

Anime Love & Hip-Hop: Part 2

Anime Love & Hip-Hop: Part 2!

Welcome back guys n’ girls to our two-part filler post about the relationship between anime and hip-hop! If you’re an anime fan, then you’re fully aware of where the medium stands in terms of popularity. What was once a close-knit medium has now become a world-wide phenomenon. From Spain to the UK anime is pretty much everywhere; just like hip-hop. The crazy thing is that its not just rappers that have mad love for anime, but a few famous celebrities and professional athletes have revealed their nerdy side as well.

Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan (aka Killmonger) revealed his love for not just Dragon Ball Z, but Naruto as well, during an interview for his new role in Rooster Teeth’s newest anime-style sci-fi adventure, gen:LOC. Kim K. tweeted her new hairstyle was inspired by Darling in the FRANXX’s Zero Two. Green Bay Packer’s Mike Daniels is not just a threat on the football field, but he too is a lover of anime.

There are so many similarities between the two mediums/platforms, which may be the reason why they’re so intertwined with one another. Both cultures tell a story about themselves that often include fantastical elements and experiences. Because of this connection between them, anime and hip-hop have spawned a number of awesome shows (and manga) which has opened the door to new ways for artists from both Japan and Western culture, to collaborate and come up with something awesome.

In Part 1 we talked about the various artists that helped to merge the two subcultures together, but when it comes to giving credit where credit is due, the rappers that come to mind would have to be RZA, Outcast, and MF DOOM. (Big Boi and Hatsune Miku did a track together, if you don’t believe us check this out!)

Quiet as it’s kept, hip-hop met anime first long before mainstream America discovered it. Both of their cultures and styles seem to have a brother-sister relationship; where one end of the medium can identify with the other. Thanks to the genre as a whole, hip-hop will always find new ways to reinvent itself; such as ‘nerdcore’ which is a subgenre of hip-hop for nerds that talk about anime and video games. Even Samuel L. Jackson is no stranger to the medium, as he’s been in a few anime titles that you might know about.

It’s hard to believe that some of us are just now realizing the connection between anime and hip-hop, but truth be told, this dance has been going on for years. Whenever you watch an anime title or listen to a song that has either a rap verse in it or elements of the genre itself, just remember who found anime first. And on that note, that will conclude our two-part filler post on the relationship between anime and hip-hop. With anime being at the level that it is now, there’s no telling what new creations and collaborations will come about from this match made in heaven.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see! 😉

Anime Love & Hip-Hop: Part 1!

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…

lotusjuice
Japanese Rapper Lotus Juice

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.

afro-afro-samurai-7608256-1920-1200.0
“Nothing personal, it’s just revenge…”

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! 😉