Komukai from trio ‘Suiyoubi no Campanella’
Since the beginning of my love affair with Asian hip hop , i’ve found myself being drawn to the scenes female artists . Whether it’s A.O.A’s Jimin with her entrancing yet defiant tone or pioneer Yoon Mi-rae ‘s socially conscious musings of being in a society unfamiliar with multicultural families, i’ve always found Asian female rappers more advanced than their Western counterparts
Now let me hasten to add , by no means am I implying that the sisterhood of ‘femcess’ on both sides of our Atlantic are without their great talents.Lil Simz , Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot are all valued parts of the tapestry. Just before i began my scribbles i saw Lady Leshurr – Queens Speech Ep 4 soaring into the 3 million views plus. In the M/V she sails down a deserted carriageway delivering boasts of bars,beauty, and Brum city before breaking into a quirky pro dental hygiene hook. No doubt much of the attention can be equated to the track featuring in the new Samsung advert Stateside.
But by and large female rappers in the West (definately UK) are collectively less relevant than the guys. This isn’t because woman are any less adept at rapping. Common sense suggests language has always been the forte of the fairer sex. Part of the problem is that Western hip hop at the moment is inherently less accommodating of female presence. Drill ,Trap and grime alike are characterised by restless high hats and menacing bass and hard content, often of a drug , violent or sexual hue. Of course women can be aggressive and sexual , but the format for expression is so hegemonically masculine. These conditions can be thanked for such lyrical gems as “you think i’m pussy i dare you to stick your dick in this” ,spoken in 97 by queen of ex-rated rap & Bad Boy’s first lady, Lil Kim. The problem was that by engaging in hyper-vulgarity she quickly became pidgeon holed a novelty act , almost like a rhyming pornstar. When was the last time you heard someone name Jenna Jameson among their favourite all time actors. You could argue Lil Kim’s career was more or less shocking an audience sufficiently to listen and then retaining them a little longer due to her affiliations. Slightly dramatic, but the point is that girls aren’t as free to be themselves in Western Hip Hop. The result? Endless Dull 2D interchangeable female rap persona’s bludgeoned of all feminine mystique and a scene desperately in need of consistently strong female presence.
Journey to Tokyo City where you’ll find trio Suiyoubi No Campanella. Their name consists of Italian and Japanese and translates as Wednesday’s Bell. The female lead vocalist Komukai has a wistful , melodic rapping style. By combining exciting jazz tinged , electronica production often with animated videos , the group have created a uniquely Japanese body of work. With subject matters ranging from romance to vampires Komukai makes no apologies for being a rapping female. Infact some of her vocal lightness has often left me feeling envious. Daoko has a similar production style and is another example of Eastern Hip Hop girl power. Her feature on the viral animated short film ME ME ME sees her rhyming accompanied by semi-porongraphic imagrey depicting a man being murdered by a sexy vixen he was lusting over from his computer screen a la ‘The Ring.’ That narrative just wouldn’t have worked as well with a male vocalist. Both of these artists are leading beacons for brave new sounds, that enrich our broad church. Rather than checking their Womanhood at the studio door they’ve developed a musical landscape that welcomes them. Artists such as Charisma.com , Makura and Bonjur Suzuki are other great examples of the great female electroinc wave washing over Japan’s Hip Hop Over & Underground.
As I-fans wait impatiently for subs to come out for Unpretty Rapstar 2 , it’s hard to not feel that there’s alot Western females could learn from the rhyming Women out East. Maybe its because Eastern rap doesn’t put such a heavy emphasis on rebellion , narcotics and violence that it’s more accommodating of woman rappers. Or maybe it’s because hip hop has impacted Asian society at a time when gender equality is a more prominent concept than it was in late 1970’s USA. But one thing is for certain. Girls in Asian hip hop fit it better and are finding better responses when they don’t. They have more room to be interesting, cool and beautiful on their own terms.
I state again i don’t wish to insinuate that girls in our scene should be resigned to speaking of heartache and motherhood. I do however, think female rappers could be more relatable to the legions of female fans of the genre , rather than donning a mask of masculine bravado and finding themselves dismissed as eye-candy by men. I hope this changes. Gender balance improves everything. Our genre is no exception. But for now the woman of Asian rap are definitely the leaders of the new school.