When East Los Meets Tokyo: Chicano Rap and Lowrider Culture in Japan

Categories: Culture, Hip-Hop
MoNa+aka+Sad+Girl_original.jpg
Earthquakes aren't the only thing that California and Japan have in common. For years Japanese youth have adopted and emulated lowrider culture and Chicano Rap as their own. This peculiar phenomenon attracted a promotional tour to Japan in 2006 by Always Running author Luis J. Rodriguez who brought along with him Gomez Comes Alive!, as well as Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez of the East LA band Quetzal.

The invitation came by way of Shin Miyata, the outskirts of Tokyo based-owner of the Barrio Gold label that distributes reissues of classics from the Chicano Soul era to contemporary Chicano rap artists. The music featured in this post's video list gravitates towards the G-Funk sound, talkbox singing style of the latter going as far as to adopt stage names the likes of MoNa aka Sad Girl, EL-REY, and EL LATINO.

In an article by Mark Guerrero, son of the legendary father of Chicano music Lalo Guerrero, Miyata offers a theory that the phenomenon, at least in his own personal case, started with imported media depictions from television and film coming out of the United States citing scenes from Chips and Boulevard Nights among them. CSUN Chicano Studies Professor Denise Sandoval was taken by surprise when she came across a Japanese car magazine that displayed the affinity for lowriders in the country. She started her academic inquiry into lowrider culture from that point on.

A cursory sampling of the comments left on YouTube videos show different opinions on Japanese performers emulating Chicano Rap/Lowrider culture. Some Chicanos express supposed "poser" dismay, but a greater majority are seemingly imbued with a certain sense of pride that their cultural expression has been adopted from far away. Chicano Rap artists and the hustlers behind the scene are among the more grateful. "Japan has been more of an avenue for profit," says Jaime Diaz, President and CEO of Urban Kings Music Group. "We distribute to stores out there and it has helped us out a lot. Japan will be the first place to buy product from independent artists."

The consumer appetite there extends to shows as well giving artists an opportunity to tour abroad. "There's people who go out to Japan every month to perform," Diaz says. "Out there it's more mainstream while over here it's more underground. They are a really observant people."


On this side of the Pacific there has been notable examples of Japanese and Chicano collaborations. Tex Nakamura, one of the best harmonica players around, was a member of funk legends WAR and Monte Carlo '76 helping to lay down the firme sounds. DJ Lady Tribe was born to a Japanese mother and is a prominent player on the LA scene. Hell, we can even take it back to OC civil rights history and the internment camp-prompted leasing of the Munemitsu farm to the Mendez family who later became lead plaintiffs in the Mendez, et al v. Westminster et al case!

Before taking it that far back, here's a compiled list of five videos from Japanese artists that illustrate the phenomenon of the affinity for Chicano rap and lowrider culture there. I don't understand the lyrics, save for when English is peppered in, but G-Funk mixed with talkbox, when done right, sounds good coming out of the speakers in any language!

1. MoNa aka Sad Girl - For Life f/ MK THE CiGAR



2. EL LATINO - Sunny Day f/ Jae-P



3. GARCiA - RESPECT LOWRIDER



4. Phobia of Thug - 213 To The 052 f/ Kid Frost



5. NORA - Sea Side Walk f/ DESTINO


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14 comments
javiercaballero605
javiercaballero605

There's Chicanos everywhere  am from Texas tha D-town 214 and I with u MoNa A.K.A Sad girl and to me your are a hermoza chicana. all the way from tha D-TOWN214. LUV YOU MONA

SFCHIPS
SFCHIPS

I Love it!!!!!!!! Unifying two beautiful cultures!!!!!!!!!!!!!#NIPPON

Yahoo
Yahoo

Embarrassing.

Dub_Shack2
Dub_Shack2

who cares they want to be like us chicanos! who wouldnt wanna be like us ;) atleast they support and permote Sad girl aka MONA & DJ LADY TRIBE are firme! BROWN PROUD!

Horriblekitty
Horriblekitty

I don't know how I feel about this, but it leans negative. It bothers me when anyone appropriates someone else's culture without really living the life, and understanding the implications and how the present came to be. Like it's a fashionable trend without any depth or meaning. It would be like me wearing a kimono and trying to emulate what I think to be Japanese culture without any knowledge or respect for the actual culture.Why can't people just appreciate something without feeling the need usurp it and make it a fad?That said, I adore Japan as a country, and I am fascinated by contemporary Japanese subcultures such as cosplay, Visual Kei and Gothic Lolita, but I don't really feel the need pretend that I'm part of that culture.

MayhemInTheHood
MayhemInTheHood

Japan: home of the unintentionally hilarious American arts appropriation. If you have a genre and/or movement in mind which they havent mimicked to death, just wait a month or two. It'll come.

Oh well. It will always be a place that margina U.S. acts can visit to make money, which is good.

SpanishSmart
SpanishSmart

I wouldn't want to be chicano...the only thing I would emulate is caring for your own (familia). ANY music, if you want to call it that, that swears violence toward others is pure crap. Yeah, I want a female that bends to male dominance by wearing gobs of make-up, has fake ass tits, wears odd bits of clothing she calls fashion, and talks as though she hadn't lived past a kindergarten society (You know?, understand what I'm sayin;?, like, really?) You go girl!! Gag me. Be brown proud, or for that matter proud of anything you want, but get a fuckin' education and learn how to spell (promote, not permote). Tried to give the benefit of a typo, but WAY too far off for that. That said, I expect to hear nothing but uneducated ignorant attacks, as is the chicano way. Live down to my expectations. Let her rip compadres. Oh, and please keep ruining perfectly good cars. Also confirms my opinions of loser mentality. PS. I'm hispanic, but would never consider myself chicano. You can have that crap life.

RollsEyes
RollsEyes

All cultures are hybrids developed through appropriation. The fact is, their version is already different, and just as they aren't "living the life" neither are you living their life. There is no ultimate authenticity. Put another way, do you wear jeans? If yes, do you have any idea what it was like to be a gold prospector during the Gold Rush in the 1850s?

FatPeopleInBadCostumes
FatPeopleInBadCostumes

Yeah, it's not like Americans would mindlessly copy marginal Japanese subcultures (and ones that are derided in their home country at that).

Ahem, "cosplay."

http://www.anime-expo.org/

Unintentionally hilarious about sums it up.

chicano87
chicano87

First of all, I,m a proud Chicano (Mexican-American). Chicano doesn't mean that i,m a "cholo" or that I drive a "lowrider". Chicano is the way I live, my heritage, my culture, and most important standing up for what I believe in. I,m proud to say that I came from the ghetto to a university where people stare at me with incredulity. SpanishSmart you need to get your facts strait before you judge anyone.  This term is empowered by our indigenous culture an our struggles we have endured as conquered people. I've participated in the great walkouts of May 2008, I stood for my people, I stood up to all those politicians who opposed immigrants.    

Guadalupe Rivera
Guadalupe Rivera

I disagree 100% with "WHO," spanishsmart, identify yourself coward. I dress "chuco" style and yes I'm proud of being Chicano from the barrios of Indio, Califas. I speak Calo and I'm not ashamed of it. You got to know your Chicano History to understand the experience in Aztlan or you can't understand what's really behind it "chavalita" I salute the young crowd in JapanAztlan for sharing the cultura because they know that Chicanos got style and will always have style, it's part of our Ancestors, los Aztecas/Toltecas with rich colors and symbols and on and on, entiendes mendes. Orale! so chill loco por que a que para La Pachucada. C/S.

El_Xicano
El_Xicano

 I dont think you understand what a Chicano is if you think its only about what you talked about. A Chicano is somebody who embodies mestizaje, a mix of European and Indigenous influences.  Urban Chicanos have adopted that in different ways through rejection of "mainstream" society, and instead using influences from that to create something unique.  Unfortunately, many Chicanos are involved in and embrace gang activity, but rather poverty has a larger role in that than being Chicano. Anyways, as far as  Japenese adoption of Chicano rap and the urban Chicano lifestyle, I see good and bad in that.  The first two songs are a respectful imitation of Chicano rap, the others, I would consider more closely related to "Gangsta Rap" with Chicano influences, which in my mind is a more negative representation of our Raza

Ayauhtimani
Ayauhtimani

 Don't be an idiot Spanish"Smart"... summing up Chicano to your mindless antics. I'm brown, and VERY proud, and I'm not Chicana, nor do I like rap. And yeah, I'm very much educated. And please stop clamming Hispanic as a race, its an ethnicity, and Chicano is a movement. Maybe you should take back some of the time you take up to respond to social articles you clearly don't understand and go read a book, or five.  

Please keep repeating how different you are to the rest of us, it's very reassuring. 

MayhemInTheHood
MayhemInTheHood

I see what you're saying, but dressing up like fantastical, fictional cartoon/comic characters is different than adopting the dress, music and language of another people as a fad.

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