Getting recognition in hip-hop as an Asian artist can be incredibly challenging. Think about how many Asian American hip-hop artists you can tick off on your fingers…the number is limited, am I right? And no, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t that many out there, there are…we just don’t know them because our music industry, like all of our other media, doesn’t give them any due attention or respect. To combat this, there are a handful of different projects and companies working to narrow the gap between the east and the west on this particular front, and I am in full support of their work.
88rising (the 88 meaning double the happiness), founded by Sean Miyashiro, is one such media company. They, in their own words, are “dedicated to celebrating global Asian culture.” That’s pretty freaking awesome, I’d say. As part of this work, they put together a series of songs called The Last Orcas involving a number of Asian artists from varying countries. The one I’m sharing today is called Save Time, a collaboration between Korean rapper Okasian and Japanese rapper KOHH. It is beautiful.
The song is about the intensity and common experience of city life in Seoul and Shibuya (a ward in Tokyo). The backing track invokes feelings akin to the reality of living in a faceless and crowded, digital world. Kind of lonely, but weirdly rich at the same time. The mix of Korean and Japanese rap is seamless and not at all jarring. In fact, the transition between the two artists and the two languages is one of the things that I love most about this song.
In case you aren’t familiar, Okasian is an American born Korean rapper that moved back and forth between the two countries, ultimately staying in Korea when his music career took off. He’s best known for his collaborations, but unlike a lot of rappers, he hasn’t participated in all of those rap themed variety programs because of a hesitation to become ‘famous.’
KOHH, a.k.a. Yuki Chiba, is a Tokyo-born rapper that grew up in a not so delightful setting. He and his brother are both rappers who got their start in the underground Japanese hip-hop scene. He has gotten international attention through his collaborations with artists like Keith Ape, Okasian, and Frank Ocean. I don’t know a lot about Japanese hip hop, but I love this guy’s style. I have definitely started a deep dive.
Okasian and KOHH, Save Time