One of the true innovators of Hip-Hop in Japan, DJ Krush is known throughout the world for his production skills and technique on the turntables. Landing an interview with him can be a challenge, though, as time zone issues, and language barriers, make it a difficult task. This week, however, RapReviews caught up with DJ Krush and through a translator (big ups to Yuriko) spoke with him about the Hip-Hop scene in Japan, its growth there, the potential for Japanese artists to cross over into America, and Krush’s own inspirations.
Adam Bernard: As an international veteran of Hip-Hop how have you seen the culture grow outside of America over the past decade plus?
DJ Krush: Hip-Hop is a huge scene on the global basis and that’s something I couldn’t imagine when I started out with Hip-Hop back in the 80’s. It was born in America and now it’s branched out to all over the world and I guess that’s because the people from different parts of the world are really identifying with Hip-Hop.
AB: When it made its way to other countries people imitated at first, so how have, in your country, Hip-Hop heads gone about developing their own communities?
DJK: When I started out in music back in the 80’s there was no one that I could model after because there was no source of information and I got into Hip-Hop by watching the movie Wild Style in 1982 and I thought wow, it’s so cool, and I got into it. In Japan, like the rest of the world, we started by copying. You can’t just be original from the very beginning. We started imitating and that’s how we started out and developed a scene in Japan.
“[They] think American Hip-Hop is cool and they just copy US Hip-Hop either sound-wise or the content of the rhyme.”
AB: I recently read a book title Hip-Hop Japan, which chronicled Hip-Hop’s arrival and growth in your country. What’s the scene like there now in 2007?
DJK: From my perspective there are two types of people in the Hip-Hop scene right now, the one is those that still think American Hip-Hop is cool and they just copy US Hip-Hop either sound-wise or the content of the rhyme, the way they dress, they just try to get as close to the African-Americans as possible, so there are people who just copy. The other type are the people who are truly original, who really have the Japanese sensibility and try to bring out their originality with the Hip-Hop as the base.
AB: I’ve heard that your nights in Japan don’t really get started until one in the morning and don’t end until past six. Is that true?
DJK: Yes, that’s true. The peak time of the club will be one or two AM and in some cases two or three AM and people are just hanging out until seven or eight AM.
AB: I’m starting to see some Asian artists being brought to my attention. Can we expect a huge influx of Asian artists in the near future or will it only be in special situations?
DJK: Using baseball as an example, for instance like (Hideki) Matsui or Ichiro (Suzuki), they really got recognized in the major leagues in America so I hope that there are a lot of Japanese artists who are going to expand their possibilities out to the world and for the Hip-Hop, the instrumental track artists like myself, since there’s no language barrier I think it’s very possible that they get crossover, but for a rapper it might be different, there might be a wall to break because of the language barrier, so I don’t know if there are a lot of artists that will crossover, but I really hope so.
“Hip-Hop is a huge thing on a global basis, so I want to take my music on a global level.”
AB: I’m glad you mentioned the beat creators and the production artists crossing over. You’ve certainly earned your place as one of the true trendsetters in DJing. What do you have planned for us next?
DJK: Like I say, Hip-Hop is a huge thing on a global basis, so I want to take my music on a global level, as well, and there must be a lot of great artists in different countries so I’m hoping to meet with them and do a collaboration when I get a chance.
AB: So is that project in the works? Is the next album going to be a global album?
DJK: I don’t have any specific plan right now but I’m going to be traveling in North America for the next month so I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of ideas and inspirations along the way. I’m going to bring all of them back to Tokyo and put them in my next work.
AB: If you’re traveling in North America clearly you’re promoting something so feel free to take this time to give me the full PR push and let me know what you have coming out.
DJK: My latest DVD called “A History of DJ Krush” just came out, so please check it out. As for my new album, I’ve been putting off making it for a while so after the tour I’m going to sit down in my studio and really start working on it, so please look forward to it.
“Sound production [..] is like finishing up one painting. The live performance is like exhibiting the painting.”
AB: How does your thought process differ when you’re putting together an album versus when you’re putting together a DJ set?
DJK: The way I put it is the sound production, the studio work, is like finishing up one painting, taking as much time as I can. The live performance is like exhibiting the painting that I finished in the studio.
AB: Most Americans don’t like what America is putting out now. Do you feel there’s anything left to get inspired by here or are you finding your inspirations, as you mentioned earlier, more globally? Basically, is America almost done in terms of Hip-Hop?
DJK: I would look at the underground scene for the inspiration, there are a lot of fresh and experimental artists that are truly original, and not really listen to the charts. There are lot of songs that you cannot distinguish between pop and Hip-Hop, you can’t tell if it’s Hip-Hop, so that’s not where I am and that’s not what I think is inspiration, so I’d look for the underground scene. And it’s not just America, the same goes for the rest of the world.
AB: Finally, where would you like to see Hip-Hop go next?
DJK: I think Hip-Hop’s gonna keep branching out and keep growing, but where it’s going I don’t know and I’ll probably die without knowing that.