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Hip-hop in Japan Essay

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2018

Hip-hop music has become popular in Japan despite dismissal by the country’s major media companies. This revolution has provided Japanese youths with an opportunity to express their views as well as sharpen their skills in music. Most of the artists have developed through underground club scenes. They have gained support from the Japanese youth who love their music. The local name for the underground club scenes is Gemba (Condry, 2006).

There have been debates against development of hip-hop in Japan despite the efforts by fans and artists to grow this music. Critics against localization of this music argued that it would result in division. However, localization of culture has proved to be a path towards globalization. This paper will focus on the debates following the revolution of hip-hop music in Japan.

Debates Emerging from Hip-hop Popularization

Major corporations in Japan dismissed hip-hop music as a transient fad which would come to an end. However, the Japanese youth pressed on with this culture, and have proved these corporations wrong by making hip-hop popular.

Today, hip-hop culture matches the Japanese powerful media companies in driving globalization. Since this culture was adopted from America, there was fear that it would result in conflict between the two nations. It was argued that adopting hip-hop and localizing it would hinder globalization, but it has amounted in interconnectedness and global sharing.

Borrowing culture and localizing it, is a form of interaction among the artists, the fans and the general audience. The revolution of this culture rescued youths from the economic uncertainty experienced in Japan in the early twenty first-century (Condry, 2006).

Hip-hop artists have challenged the world on crime issues, for example, the American government’s response to terrorism attacks. The artists seek to know what the government has planned in response to these attacks. This is a form of communication to the governments, and not offensive stereotype as initially assumed. While clubbing, the Japanese youths socialize, network and share business ideas.

This is a scene that offers more than just mere stage performance and entertainment. It provides a forum for the artists, fans, producers and even the organizers to network. The issue of commercialization of hip-hop music came about when a smaller fraction of the artists went for major record labels to promote their music.

This caused a stir, and it was assumed that the artists were driven by economic benefits. However, this was not the case, most of the artists focused on refining their music in the Japanese languages to give it a Japanese flavor. This was done in the gembas, fans segregated themselves according to artist preference (Condry, 2006).

Hip-hop culture has also encouraged the youths to be socially responsible. For instance, environmentalists would visit and teach the youth on proper waste disposal and recycling. They were also taught about the best beer products for their consumption. So, contrary to the assumption that these activities would ruin morals, they also served to educate the youths on social responsibility and united them.

Unity gave them one voice for them to address the authorities. An example of such representation is when one of the emcees Utamaru challenged the government on backroom dealings. The fans joined him with screams and cheers to show their support for this message.

The artist represents the rest of the group in disapproving corrupt activities that the government is involved in. The messages are not only limited to Japanese politics, but also on global ones. Through these expressions, the artist challenges the cultural hegemony in the west; he portrays hip-hop in Japan as a global style and not Americanization.

This shows that the hip-hop culture in Japan is not interested in competing with other nations, but rather promoting globalization through music localization. The artists have diversified their music to become very dynamic and competitive, a fact doubted by many hip-hop critics in the past (Condry, 2006).

Cultural globalization has always been symbolized by multinational organizations like Coca-cola. However, the Japanese hip-hop culture has changed this fact. Japan has attracted attention from the hip-hop culture which concentrates on the local languages and peer groups of different generations. The culture is distinct and stands out from the multinational corporations; it promotes global sharing and networking.

Cultural globalization is achieved by connecting hip-hop scenes world-wide to create diversity in styles. In contrast to the expectations that global culture would be homogeneous, localization of music works best. When nations with different cultural backgrounds borrow music ideas and localize them, this becomes a form of sharing.

It brings nations together through music exploration to build cultural flows and interactions. Hip-hop revolution in Japan shows the importance of networking. Through the Japanese peers, hip-hop music has expanded to be recognized by major record labels that had rejected it at first (Condry, 2006).


The revolution of hip-hop music in Japan was met with objection. It was assumed that the culture would die if not supported by the major music record labels, or the media.

However, this worked out to introduce the concept of cultural globalization in which nations are interconnected by sharing music. The artists are popularized by their own music and not through the media. Therefore, the belief that media is the only tool that drives globalization is misguided, culture can also be used to promote globalization.


Condry, I. (2006). Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the paths of cultural globalization. Durham, NC. Duke Univ. Press.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Hip-hop in Japan." June 19, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hip-hop-in-japan/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Hip-hop in Japan'. 19 June.

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