Recently I have read the following book, its main points are:
Book title :Condry, Ian. 2006. Hip-hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
The thesis of the book is that the path of hip-hop development had showed that cultural globalization was not solely driven by powerful media (as a Frankfurt school’s thinking). This book shows that localized cultural forms could have a global shared-ness (from the US underground to Japan), and to understand hip-hop in term of a dichotomy of local/global could be problematic.
Condry argues that while the Japanese rappers drew inspiration from hip-hop which was about African Americans’ struggles, hip-hop became an approach for these rappers to talk about race issues in a Japanese way. Contrasting the hip-hop in the US as black noise, some people called hip-hop in Japan as yellow noise. In Japan, race as a topic could touch on the much debated issue of Japanese homogeneity. Rappers also touched on new cultural politics, and advocated transnational connectedness with others ethnic groups, for example easing tension with the Korean (p.47).
Condry notices that many Japanese emcees often packaged themselves into the images of samurai toughness, representing a link to Japanese culture e.g. in history and language (p.49). The author suggests that genba (the actual sites of performance) enabled the audience to feel the global nature of hip-hop while at the same time enjoyed a local feeling (e.g. through the samurai image picked by the rappers/hip-hoppers to represent themselves). Hip-hop generated a challenge to understand cultural globalization using the dichotomy of global and local (p.86).
Focusing on some hip-hop events held in clubs, Condry points out that the clubs were in existence amidst the larger music industry and in a society that encountered a changing youth culture. The young people were facing a change in employment pattern and a drop in job opportunities (p.87). Condry asks the question: whether hip-hop performance in clubs could influence the society (to cause reforms to improve the situation of the youth), the business world (that was looking for sale and profit) and government politics (that was looking at pop music as a source of soft-power) respectively (p.87). The book argues that genba hip-hop, based on performativity, could offer a way to distinguish between the different paths of cultural globalization. Genba hip-hop emerged from the collective focus of energy and attention from all participants, which was different from other US globalized culture such as McDonald fast food. Condry also asserts that through genba we could see how the global and the local intersected (p.94).
For the purpose of examining the relation between rap fans and Japan’s consumer culture, and based on the ideas of Clammer and Miller, the author asserts that “consumerism shapes capitalism while extending its reach, becoming integrated into notions of national and local identities” (pp.112-113). Quoting Miller, Condry suggests that “people admire authenticity through creation: if you make it, it is yours” (p.113). The author further argues that Japan in 1990s witnessed a change that could be noticed in the self-organization of hip-hop fans. There were two broad changes: an increased massifcation of popular culture, and an increased diversification of markets. In hip-hop, there were specialized scenes for different styles of hip-hop, and a growing number of fans came to occupy relative autonomous “island in space” (p.115). The author identifies two worlds of Japanese rap fans: the underground hip-hop and the party rap. On the changes in consumer culture, Condry identifies two new concepts seen during 1980s to 1990s: the shinjinrui (the new human type, i.e. those who had money to spend due to the economic boom) and the otaku (those youth who retreated from the society) (p.124).
Condry also pointed out the scarcity of women rappers in Japan. He concluded that this situation reminded us that there was still a peculiar conservatism among the men who control entertainment business in Japan (p.180).
Condry also looks into the use of English in achieving rhyming in hip-hop and suggests that Japanese rap demonstrated the contingency of linguistic identity. Using English could be interpreted as Western domination. But some of these uses were aimed at cracking the hegemonic understanding that Japanese was one people with one language (the Nihonjinron) (pp.134-5). Rapping was not just about rhyming, it was about finding a language that could creak the fissure of artificial language i.e. the “standard Japanese” (p.152). Language used in Japanese hip-hop told us about the power of English in global popular culture, and that to evaluate the role of English depended on knowing why it was used (might be aiming at generating aesthetic or political forces) (p.162). This view of language politics might help us to see beyond the stereotype that the use of English was an evidence of “American influence” (p.163).
Condry argues that it was not money alone that motived the development of Japanese hip-hop. Without the artists’ commitment in organizing shows and reaching out to the wider audience, hip-hop could not generate money. For the artists, there were other goals to promote hip-hop: to promote upcoming projects, to build a reputation and to extend fan support. (p.182). There were no clear line between culture and market. Both economic force and the cultural force could be at work. Condry concluded that commercialism alone did not drive hip-hop in Japan.
Hip-hop in Japan showed that the conventional understanding of globalization was in need of a revision. If we viewed transnational flow in terms of multinational corporation, powerful media, or government forces, we would fail to see the diversity of paths that connected the global culture. Genba, the actual sites of performance (including nightclubs and recording studios) was and important path for cultural globalization (p.207). Going to clubs embodied a movement against the mainstream; it emphasis leisure, consumption and speaking out. Hip-hop offered a chance to speak truth to those in power, and provided a way for hip-hoppers to imagine themselves as part of a global cultural movement (p.217).