This post is going to focus on Hip Hop in Asia: Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. This is not a post about Taiwanese Hip Hop, Japanese Hip Hop, etc. As a DJ and a lover of Hip Hop I'll talk about my experience in these places.
Before I do though I have to say I love Hip Hop. I have been listening to it since I was a kid, but it's not just the music. A lot of the art that I have made has been influenced by hip hop. I used to paint a lot and some of it was inspired from graffiti.
Anyways let's go to...
Hip hop in Japan
I think Japan is the best place for Hip Hop in Asia. Japan was the first to get exposure to Hip Hop in Eastern Asia. Which began back in the early eighties. Since then many famous MC's, DJ's and groups have been going to Japan. More Hip Hop acts go to Japan than any of the other places and it's been that way for a long time.
Many of the acts that I like have also stated that they enjoy performing in Japan.
I remember going to Fukuoka which is just a city of about 1 million people. There you'll find a number of DJ's spinning Hip Hop on turntables (true Hip Hop DJ's use turntables). You'll also find 6 or 7 stores within a few blocks that sell vinyl records. Most had a Hip Hop section and one was devoted to Hip Hop.
And since Hip Hop has been in Japan for a long time you'll also find a diversity of Hip Hop that extends beyond the mainstream. You'll find a variety of Hip Hop such as old school and underground Hip Hop.
Hip hop in Taiwan
Taiwan doesn't really compare to Japan, but I'll give it second place. There's not much of a Hip Hop community in Taiwan. Nor are there many places that sell vinyl. It's pretty mainstream as far as Hip Hop goes.
It's pretty good for shows though. A number of international acts go through there. Tai Pei gets some good shows. When I was there the Beastie Boys came through as well as DJ Premier, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Q Bert and DJ Drez. Most of the action is in Tai Pei, but some of the other cities got a few shows too.
There used to be a small record shop called "DaProject" in Tai Pei. It had a pretty small selection.
Hip hop in China
There's not much going on in China. Even Hong Kong - which is pretty international, doesn't have much of a Hip Hop scene. Not many shows go through there and last I knew there is really no clubs there that play anything other than main stream Hip Hop. I can't speak for Beijing, but the best place in China for Hip Hop might be Shanghai.
The scene in Shanghai centers around a club called "The Shelter". It's not just Hip Hop and it's a pretty cool place. It's an old bomb shelter that has been converted into a bar/club. They get some good shows there that include a good set of international acts. I saw DJ Shortcut and Pete Rock while I was there.
One of the owners also owns a cafe that has a room upstairs where scratch DJ's get together and scratch.
Hip hop in Korea
Korea is famous for K-pop not Hip Hop. The scene for Hip Hop there centers around B-Boys. There is a lot of them and they have some shows and battles. I met a few while in Busan and in Changwon. In my experience they seemed a little leery of me, the foreigner. I was hoping to make some connections, but for whatever reasons I didn't. I also wouldn't describe Korea as very foreign friendly.
Outside of mainstream hip hop and the B-Boys you won't find much there. I spent 2.5 years in Busan which is Korea's 2nd largest city (3.5 million) and I never heard of or saw any famous Hip Hop DJ's or MC's come through. I imagine Seoul would be a bit better, but there's still not much of a scene there from what I understand.
Check out this cool B-Boy battle in the DMZ.
Hip hop in Asia
There's a lot of imitation hip hop in all of these countries too. There are Japanese dudes with homemade Afro's, girls who paint their faces brown, dudes who drive low riders, etc. It's not just hip hop though, for example you'll see Elvis Presley imitators too. Image and appearance is big in Eastern Asia.
There is a lot of imitation of all kinds all around the world. Again all I can say about Eastern Asia is that as far as Hip Hop goes Japan is the best by far. If you love Hip Hop then you also may be interested in seeing why I love Hip Hop too.
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