MC KAN (漢) INTERVIEW – English


“Kabukicho is the invisible town, no one can understand this place, no one can see clearly inside those streets”

MURDARATION, new KAN’s album released in december 2012

Kan’s Interview about his new album Murdaration, hip-hop in Japan, links between Yakuza and politicians, business between clubs and cops, doing music with Krush, and hanging out in Ikebukuro…


Dat’ : Your new album, Murdaration, is a top seller at Tower Records and Disk Union even though your hip-hop is very tough and hard. This is not happening anymore in France, where we mainly have mainstream hip-pop in the charts. What is the place of real and raw hip-hop in Japan ?

Kan : Well, my first solo album was released 7 years ago, and lots of stuff has changed since then, especially with all the shit about CDs and mp3s, new music formats, to sell your music you’ve got to act differently… I noticed that all of this had an effect on the music of some artists, but for me, it really doesn’t matter. What about hip-hop in Japan… ? Well, lots of people think that hip-hop is all about “yo yo check it out” but it’s changing little by little, because people who were listening to hip-hop have grown up and are adults now. Hip-hop is not a new movement anymore.
Actually, even in your family or your friends, you can have a guy rappin’. Even guys who work for the government as state employees, or as a cop, were ex-rappers before. So I guess that that kind of thing can only make Japanese rap more popular for everyone, even if it’s still a very underground culture compared to other music genre.

dat’ : Murduration sounds very old school hip-hop in the production. How did you proceed to create this new LP ? We saw that you made a lot of references to NAS-Illmatic with your first album, so what is the place of American Hip-hop in your music ?

Kan: Ah, the Illmatic artwork… My first album was released by Libra Records. At first, it was going to be the Gremlin graffiti you can see in my old video clip, but the designer changed the plans, found a photo of me as a teenager, and made it like Nas/Illmatic. I didn’t want it like that, we argued a lot about this shit, but the deadline was already over so… But finally, everyone knows my album with this artwork, and maybe it helped it, so I guess it was not that bad finally. The funny thing is that I’m not a big fan of NAS, and I don’t have strong feelings about his music. But American hip-hop, of course I like it a lot even if I understand shit about the lyrics. I would like to see Japanese hip-hop becoming as strong and as good as American hip-hop. Actually, my friend TAV aka Taboo1 was in the French graff crew L.F.T, so yeah, this kind of thing helps us to send our messages from Japan to everywhere. My goal would be that foreigners could say “yeah, there are really cool guys in Japanese Hip-hop”. Not only gaijins living in Tokyo, but also guys from France, US, England…

dat’ : This Murduration album has normal tracks, but also live songs, freestyle, beatbox… How did you proceed with DJ 琥珀 to create this album?

Kan : Well, about the freestyle… Long time ago, I was at a festival in Kyoto, and there was shitload of artists there. I was backstage, when I heard on stage a freestyle battle between an Mc called Meteor and Ill-Bosstino, from Tha Blue Herb. To introduce myself, I began to freestyle with the others. It was the first time I met Ill-bosstino. A couple of years later, he called me up. I actually remember that this guy doesn’t have a cell phone, so it was from a home phone, which is pretty unusual in Japan (laughs).
So, he wanted to see my hood, so we went to Taboo’s house, he was living near Shin-Okubo at that time. We smoked a fuckload of blunts to get high, and we began to freestyle again, to get some video footage. I actually used the sound from that video for the new album’s freestyle track !

dat’ : The beat of 漢流の極論 is maybe the most insane beat of all Japanese hip-hop… And it’s a track that was shared in France few years ago… can you tell us a bit more about this track ?

Kan : well, the guy who did this track was DJ O-KI. For the anecdote, he is a businessman now, he’s clean and works for a company… You know, in Japan, BBoys have to think about their life, there are two steps you can’t miss : 22 and 30 years old. At 22, most of the young people graduate from university, to be fresh businessmen. If not, at 30, the people who are in a music band and wanna be rockstar or something, age 30 is the limit to either succeed at their dreams, or take the last train to be a normal guy in Japanese society.
Anyway, we used to have events with this producer at Shibuya’s club “Harlem” (legendary hip-hop club in Shibuya). I wanted my rap to sound ghetto, so I asked him to make something hard, and he made some tracks. And when I heard 漢流の極論 for the first time, I was like “whao, this is huge !”

Truth is that the yakuza own the night-affairs, but cops are deeply involved in the club business too”

dat’ : In this song (漢流の極論 ) you say that “betrayal in kabukicho makes you lose your life…” We know the rules of the American Hood, and NY gangsta district through American hip-hop… but its hard for French people to know about the Kabukicho “rules”… Can you tell us about the Kabukicho/Shinjuku you know, a place very important in your lyrics?

Kan : It’s a bit different. Well, for me, Kabukicho is the place to hang out. Of course I’ve seen more bad stuff in Kabukicho than anyone else. You know, all over the world, there’s always a good side and a bad side in every district. For me, Kabukicho is the invisible town, no one can understand this place, no one can see clearly inside those streets. Especially these days. I know that people can diss, or be scared by Japanese gangs, yakuza or teamers (gangs of youth Japanese hanging in the streets, searching for fights). But I also know lots of people who don’t give a fuck, and could hang out with those guys, who can actually be really cool dudes.
Also, from this district, there are lots of guys who are rappers, or like hip-hop. One of my friends became a cop in the MaruBo brigade (a special police unit specializing against the Yakuza), but he used to be a Dj before. One time, his squad encountered my crew, he definitely knew who I was, but he had the obligation to check me up (laughs). There are also murderers from this district who wanna stop their criminal life and begin to rap after prison. I guess it’s like other countries. Don’t know how it goes in France… but nobody talks about this in the Japanese media.

dat’ : Do you think that Kabukicho changed a bit lately, with the new laws against yakuza, police trying to shut down clubs… ? Have those changes influenced your lyrics ?

Kan : Yeah, good point, I’ve definitely felt that. But you can be sure than this district will never deeply change. Because without all the business inside Kabukicho, Shinjuku couldn’t “roll”. Shinjuku’s ward needs Kabukicho’s money. You know, you are a foreigner, so there is something you have to understand : Japanese culture is all about this stuff. This country is running only because of the connections between cops, politicians and yakuza. Especially in the japanese countryside, where they connect to each other super easily with a simple phone call, like if it was normal business. In Tokyo, it’s like that too.
Actually, a long time ago, with my bro’ Shingo Nishinari, we had some NGO study meetings, district meetings and stuff… inside you could find cops, Diet members, ward assemblymen… and crime organizations. They were many people invited, and it was good for us, we could make a lot of connections with politicians (laughs). Actually, we did rap in front of them, and we got cheers from those government guys, even if we were singing hard lyrics about “life in the Shinjuku underground”. Hey, I also know a very famous politician who listens to Shingo Nishinari at his office (laughs).
We have lots of information, data about guys who were involved in a weird lifestyle in their past lives, and they suddenly got famous in politics or stuff like that. And… wait… what was the question again? Sorry mate, I’m so fucking high right now ! (laughs)

(laughs) it was about Kabukicho and…

Ahhh yeah yeah. Kabukicho is a bit different than in my childhood… when I was younger, we were always playing outside you know, in parks and streets… and we were always going in places where there were some fights (laughs). At that time gangs of teamers were everywhere in the street, it was more visible, in Shibuya or Ikebukuro, but not so much in Shinjuku. Coz this disctrict was for “adults business” you know? So teamers couldn’t stay in this area. We had to wait to hang out there. Kabukicho is fascinating. I went to Hong-Kong and stuff, were you could find million-dollar night views… but Kabukicho was the biggest “money flow” district.

dat’ : And what music did you listen in your childhood?

Kan : Well, my mother says that I used to listen to Masahiko Kondo… But me, I remember that I was listening to Syains, which was a Businessmen band, which only made a one hit song. Actually when I think about it, those lyrics were kinda Hiphop-ish, I liked that (laughs). My father also made me listen so American oldies, with very warm and cool sounds. I didn’t grow up with music in fact. And actually, I didn’t really care about music at that time.

dat’: Are there any rules for foreigners who visit Kabukicho?

Kan : Hmmm…. In the bars, we don’t allow foreigners… but those sex clubs and other place, they just don’t wanna have trouble. If there are foreigners in those clubs, cops and yakuza will definitely show up (laughs)
Actually, Yakuza own and manage a lot of clubs, but they don’t take care of hip-hop events. You’ll find yakuza in it, but they’ll not manage the whole thing.

dat’ : That’s a good topic, what about the links between clubs and yakuza?

Kan : Mmmmh… there are a lot of clubs which are closed by police these days in Tokyo, for strange reasons. But they open again very quickly in general, and that’s always because yakuza are linked with cops. It’s all about money and business. Actually, it’s really hard to open a hip-hop club without knowing cops, or having a connection with the police. Truth is that the yakuza own the night-affairs, but cops are deeply involved in the club business too. Actually, even when I do a live in the countryside, far from Tokyo, the event organizer often looks like a Yakuza. Or you can find some diamond-shape symbol, like backstage, the water bottles are shaped like that on the table, to show that the yakuza are involved in this event (The diamond shape is the symbol of one of the biggest criminal organizations in Japan). This stuff happens a lot (laughs)! Often, the organizer will ask me “hey Kan, are you still in the “business” or not?” and I’m like “no, I make money with my music now” (laughs again)

we are not the kind of guys who use Internet to record a CD… we really need to live near each other, hang out together in our hood…”

dat’ : It’s been a while since we heard an MSC release. Is there some future MSC album planned ?

Kan : There is no plan for a new album at the moment. I mean. We may never release a new MSC album, I don’t really know. It’s not that we broke up or shit, more like we are in hibernation for the moment. MC GO is doing other stuff now, O2 has a family and he’s living in Okinawa now… And we are not the kind of guys who use Internet to record a cd by email… we really need to live near each other, hang out together in our hood, to find some stimulation. That’s why we haven’t made some new MSC stuff lately… And this is a French interview so I can say it : there’s also a record label problem, and we haven’t been able to fix it. If we can fix that, maybe it will accelerate the whole thing.

dat’ : You worked with Dj Krush. From the point of view of a Japanese Hiphop artist, what does dj krush represent for you ?

Kan : Well, that’s a story I told to Krush a few years ago : I had a friend who was really into Krush’s music when we were in high school, and he made me listen to it. It was like Wu-tang for me you know? Very dark, very gloomy, and raw as fuck. For me, it was a bit new, so I was like “yeah its cool”, but I didn’t listen to it a lot at that time. Didn’t dislike it uh, but it was not a big shock, I was not a Krush freak (laughs). But a few years after, I saw him on tv, he was saying something like “I want to spread Japanese rap all over the world, I want foreign countries to listen to it, that’s one of the reasons why I tour all over the world” and I was like “shit, Krush is damn cool !”. And of course knew that this guy was also a yakuza when he was young and stuff… but after I saw this interview, I was like “Krush rules !”
And I began to freestyle a lot on Krush’s songs, and little by little he asked to work with me, I was really glad, so fucking happy to hear that !
The first version of Mosa we did was cut off by SONY, don’t really know why. I actually didn’t like this first version so much. But later, Krush released a remix version of Mosa in his LP, and this one was super cool. I’m glad I could work with him, and I hope I’ll have again the chance to do other stuff with Krush in the future.

dat’ : Another thing about hip-hop and Japanese culture… is it hard to be a girl in the J-hiphop scene?

Kan : Well, from my point of view, I think its pretty cool. It’s not that hard in fact, girls can be better at finding out how to show their skills. And of course, it can be really helpful for them if they are cute. About success and shit, depends how bitchy they will be, or how true to hip-hop they are. It can be really easy to market a girl only with her cute face, but does she have skills?
It’s a foreign interview, so I can say this : I’ve a wife, and she was a rapper, doing it great. For me, girls in Japanese hip-hop is really cool.

dat’ : Could you advise, for French people, 3 Japanese hiphop artists we should listen to and discover ?

Kan : (think a bit) Well, I would say BES of Swanky Swipe… Anarchy, a MC from kyoto… and Shingo Nishinari of course. There is a lot more of course. Japanese Hiphop scene is very interesting right now, and there is a lot to discover.

Dat’ : Yeah, Japanese hiphop is very interesting, and you can find it everywhere in big cd shops, but its kinda hard to find some good Hiphop events in Tokyo, no?

Kan : Yeah… I’d like to see more cool places with hiphop. Especially in Shibuya, its very hard to find good music now… //And Ikebukuro?// Yes, I’ve very good memories in this district. But it’s not the same anymore. Few years ago, it was insane. Parties full of people, with lots of fights, you could feel rage in the audience, it was cool (laughs). But events like that in Tokyo? Just a few now… And its sad to say, but it’s the same for “real hiphop” shops. There used to be many shops before, sharing the passion of music, but they nearly all closed. You know that the shop Boot Street is closed? (think a bit in silence). Yeah, good and fun hiphop places are hard to find now… We definitely have to fight for this in the future…

MC Kan (漢) – I’m a Y Plant

MSC – 音信不通

All photos by dat’ / Chroniques Automatiques


Thanks a million to Myuji, who was my bro’ for this interview, from the beginning the to end. This wouldn’t have been possible without him. And always a big shout to Daz, my english savior

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