Ever the progressive MC and a mastermind, the legendary ECD teamed up with YOU THE ROCK and TWIGY on one of the most important track and turning point for Japanese hip hop. Aptly titled “Mass vs Core” (Masu tai Koa – マス対コア in Japanese), which directs attention to the growing pains in Japanese hip hop enjoying mainstream coverage (Mass) and hip hop heads (Hardcore) feeling used and abused by the commercialisation.

I am sure every sub culture experiences this growing pains, where the popularity starts to filter into mass mainstream media and exploitation takes place. Even in New York, when SUGAR HILL GANG came out, people were obviously not happy as MCs were predominantly for parties, and rhymes were not for pressing vinyls and radio play.

In the 90’s Japanese hip hop reached this point where the mass media coined the term “J-Rap” or “J-Hip Hop” to describe the new music genre. However, those MCs and DJs who actually built the scene from the start felt it was mislabeled and referred to their music as “Nihongo Rap (日本語ラップ)” or Japanese Rap in English. Without going too deeply into the details, MCs and DJs didn’t want to be labeled by those who saw this as a commercial opportunity or had no real interest in the scene.

So next time someone mentions the term “J-Rap” or “J-Hip Hop”, slap them upside the head and school them with the correct terminology, Nihongo Rap (日本語ラップ). Unless if they are talking about wack pop stars trying to rap… in which case they are absolutely right.

On a side note, there is an ill book by IAN CONDRY titled HIP-HOP JAPAN, which dives deep into the heart of Japanese hip hop scene in the 90’s. CONDRY lived in Tokyo and interviewed active MCs and DJs during his stay and it is probably the dopest English book to explore the topic.

hip hop japan

Cover photo: PUNPEE by CHERRY CHILL WILL