Hip-Hop had a sudden surge in popularity by the end of the decade. Up until then, seiyuu seldom performed rap songs and there were no seiyuu completely and openly embracing the genre.
Japan has always had a stereotypical view of hip-hop and rappers in general. However, those views sort of changed in 2017 with the launch and almost instant success of the hip-hop project, Hypnosis Mic. This is the first big hip-hop project in the seiyuu industry but before it there were already seiyuu tackling the music genre – at times successfully, at others clumsily.
Regardless if you are a fan or not of the franchise we need to give credit where it is due. If not for Hypnosis Mic, many hip-hop heads would not have their fix among male seiyuu much less on 2D projects.
The panorama is starting to shift and the industry is now more populated, especially after the launch of the mixed media hip-hop project by Avex and G Crest, Paradox Live. With two exciting franchises exploring and enjoying the fruits of their success after creating unique crews with characteristical sound and different takes on hip-hop sub-genres and trends, it is expected that more music labels have a go at the genre and, at least if the trend keeps up in 2020, launch another rap/hip-hop project in the coming year.
2020 is going to be an exciting year however, before we take a step into the year, let’s revisit some of the best hip-hop songs released in this decade.
Once again, this list feature the songs by chronological order. No ranking was made on those.
Division All Stars “Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle-“
The Hip-Hop trend among seiyuu started with this very song. 2017 was nearing its end when Otomate and KING RECORDS announced the launch of a mixed media seiyuu x hip-hop project, Hypnosis Mic. 4 crews were introduced to the public and an ensemble track, performed by what ended up being called the Division All Stars (mega group featuring all crew members).
Division All Stars‘ Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- was the first ever contact that people had with the project, to listen and watch the potential behind it.
The song was an instant hit domestically as well as overseas, starting from that point on, the on-going rap and hip-hop trend in seiyuu/2D units music.
Ichiro Yamada 俺が一郎 (Ore ga Ichiro)
Just like Division All Stars‘ Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle-, Ichiro Yamada (voiced by the rap connoisseur and rapper himself, Subaru Kimura) was the very first listen at the potential this project had.
Ore ga ichiro was very first solo song preview we got. Powerful and poignant, this was the kind of hip-hop track that had our blood racing from the very first synth hit.
Doppo Kannonzaka チグリジア (Tigridia)
Still in the same year, Matenro impressed with their powerful group release, Matenro-Onin Rinsho-. There was one particular song however, that was so dark and instantly connected to all listeners. The theme “life” resonated more with us through Doppo Kannonzaka’s (CV: Kento Ito) dramatic and distant rap in チグリジア (Tigridia).
The bells ringing, the life support’s beeps, the melancholic sax melody and the muffled atmosphere reflected someone suffocated by mundane life. This continues to be the best track by the talented crew.
Buster Bros!!! VS MAD TRIGGER CREW “WAR WAR WAR”
Out of all tracks released in the Battle Series back in 2018, this was, easily, the best one.
Buster Bros!!! and MAD TRIGGER CREW faced off in a heated WAR WAR WAR filled of disses, powerful punchlines, dark bassy synths and an engrossing distorted beat.
The result was an even battle and a song that won’t easily be forgotten for its quality and for how impressive was the rap by both crews.
We stray away from the Hypnosis Mic franchise to add one of the best rap tracks that is not from it. Momochi‘s Lion, song featured on Dear Vocalist Wired entry No.5 in 2018, is well worthy of its spot in this feature.
This was the franchise’s first iteration to hip-hop (and, at the moment, the only one) and from the instrumental produced by R.O.N to Toshiyuki Toyonaga‘s flowy performance, there was no shortage of impressive moments for us. This song proved that Toyonaga is a chameleon among seiyuu, performing basically every music genre there is and sound like it is all a piece of cake.
Fling Posse “Stella”
Is there a more heartbreaking hip-hop song than this one? Fling Posse, crew that since the start was considered weaker than the other hard-hitting crews, impressed everyone with their entry in the compilation album, Enter the Hypnosis Microphone (2019).
The crew went from bubbly to emo in a song that still gives chills whenever the melancholic piano melody kicks in, and the film starts playing, as if ready to break as Soma Saito narrates the intro in an ominous tone. The crew’s performance is something that still impacts anyone that listens to this track. If there is a best hip-hop track rank within the Hypnosis Mic franchise, this one takes the crown.
MAD TRIGGER CREW “シノギ(Dead Pools)” (Shinogi (Dead Pools))
MAD TRIGGER CREW managed to add a hard-hitting and imposing tune to the franchise’s first compilation album, Enter the Hypnosis Microphone.
Shinogi (Dead Pools) put MAD TRIGGER CREW in well known territory. Slow paced, minimalistic beat, distorted synths and rap that echoed in the middle of the nothingness that is the instrumental had us feel each beat with more attention than usual. This is a song that fully displays the appeal in MTC’s approach to rap and how their dark, imposing vibe could work in a minimalistic setting exuding the same menace as previous, more crowded, tracks had managed.
Dotsuitare Honpo “Ah, Osaka dreamin’night”
As laidback as possible, Dotsuitare Honpo arrived and left their mark in the Hypnosis Mic franchise.
The Osaka crew made their debut in 2019 with Ah, Osaka dreamin’night and had us all jamming along to it in no time.
From the tasteful mix of traditional Japanese instruments, such as the shamisen and shakuhachi, in the instrumental to the funky beat and pun-filled yet powerful rap by the trio, it is impossible not to be charmed by this crew and how fresh they sound.
2019 welcomed a new mixed media hip-hop project: Paradox Live. With it were unveiled 4 teams but the one to instantly make an impact were BAE (Gakuto Kajiwara, Ayumu Murase and 96neko).
The group released the full version of their debut track BaNG!!!, song that sounds nothing alike the rap music that is being produced and released by the Hypnosis Mic. With a completely fresh sound that features a mad trap beat, a deep bass line, dark washy synths and a massive drop that is impossible not to feel.
If that wasn’t enough the song features rap in English, Korean and Japanese as well as angelic vocals by 96neko while exploring themes such as the group’s identity and what is our own identity, something that sparked a lot of interest within the international LGBTQ+ community.
It is safe to say that this group might be the next big thing in Japanese and, who knows, make it possible for a healthy rivalry and or peaceful coexistence with the Hypnosis Mic franchise.
cozmez “Whey They At?”
This feature wraps up with the recently released Where They At?, song performed by cozmez.
Also part of the Paradox Live franchise, cozmez is the team that has the most versatile lineup: Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Yusuke Kobayashi.
Vocal wise these are two seiyuu known for singing with a lot of quality. With similar singing tones and a whole lot of talent and versatility under their belt, the duo performed and impressed with cozmez‘s debut song, Where They At?, tune that mixes trap with pop to create a sound that most might find similar to what can be found in the K-pop industry. Catchy and hard-hitting, this song managed to close 2019 in style.
Organized by release date, here are the Best Hip-Hop Songs of the Decade (2010-2019):
- 2017| Division All Stars “ヒプノシスマイク -Division Rap Battle-“
- 2017| Ichiro Yamada 俺が一郎
- 2017| Doppo Kannonzaka チグリジア
- 2018| Buster Bros!!! VS MAD TRIGGER CREW “WAR WAR WAR”
- 2018| Momochi “Lion”
- 2019| Fling Posse “Stella”
- 2019| MAD TRIGGER CREW “シノギ(Dead Pools)”
- 2019| Dotsuitare Honpo “Ah, Osaka dreamin’ night”
- 2019| BAE “BaNG!!!”
- 2019| cozmez “Whey They At?”
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