Japanese rap creates its mecca in Pop Yours

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The rapper Awich, dressed all in black, marches toward the center of Makuhari Messe arena before declaring to the 30,000 in attendance, “Be the witness of how I truly … POP … MY … SHIII!” The crowd cheers and the opening bars of her hit, “Gila Gila,” start up. With that, her stage platform rises and she seemingly ascends to the heavens.

The Okinawa native is one of the biggest rappers in Japan at the moment, and closed out last year’s edition of Pop Yours, a festival dedicated to rap. During its two days, acts such as Japanese MC ralph, rapper Bonbero and duo Yurufuwa Gang lit up the stage. Whether they were fast, slow, autotuned or jazzy, the artists were all united by one thing: the widening umbrella of Japanese hip-hop and rap.

The Japanese rap scene has grown noticeably in the past few years, producing spinoffs and crossovers to the extent that the genre now boasts a festival solely featuring homegrown talent. Pop Yours’ inaugural 2022 edition invited fans to take in over 35 different acts across the weekend. And since that first mid-COVID event, every edition — including this year’s, which takes place May 18 and 19 — has sold out well in advance.

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