December 14, 2022 | Tokyo, Japan | Team RJHH
2022 was a particularly significant year for Japanese hip-hop. We witnessed the release of surprising albums such as those by SHINGO★NISHINARI and BIM, which met all expectations. However, all eyes were mainly on the project of the Japanese rap star, Awich, whose fifth album, QUEENDOM, worthy of all superlatives, was broadcasted on foreign airwaves. The young generation of rappers was also very active this year, led by the group BAD HOP and emerging artists such as Leon Fanourakis, Hideyoshi, and Wilywnka, who reached new heights.
On the other hand, underground rap purists also had reason to rejoice with projects such as those of Issugi, Mulbe, and 18scott, who were surprised with the quality of their productions, poignant lyrics, and new style explorations. This article presents our selection of the best albums from the Japanese rap scene released in 2022. This list will allow you to discover the big names of Japanese rap and immerse yourself in a musical universe that is both surprising and fascinating. Whether you are a longtime fan or a curious novice, this selection will seduce you and take you on a journey through the exciting world of Japanese rap.
Awich | QUEENDOM
Japanese rap queen Awich released her fifth album titled QUEENDOM on March 4, 2022, a project that confirmed her status as an accomplished hip-hop artist. After presenting some music videos in 2021, news of the release of QUEENDOM created a real buzz among her fans. Just two years after the distribution of her project Partition by Universal Music, Awich is back with an album filled with gems.
The listeners’ expectations were largely satisfied, with carefully selected collaborations that excited the public. GILA GILA, for example, is a track streamed more than 15 million times on Spotify, with the participation of two indispensable figures in Japanese rap, JP THE WAVY and YZEER from BAD HOP. In Link Up, Awich nods to her roots by traveling to Okinawa with Keiju from KandyTown and rapper ¥ellow Bucks.
The QUEENDOM album demonstrates Awich’s artistic maturity and ability to collaborate with the biggest names in Japanese rap. She continues to impress her audience and meet their expectations. With this new project, she confirms her place among the few Japanese artists of international stature. Fans can be proud of their rap queen, who continues to reign over the Japanese music scene.
ZORN | RAP
Zorn, known for his poetic rap and collaboration with producer BACHLOGIC, released his new RAP album in September 2022. For Zorn’s fans, the release of this new album was highly anticipated, and as usual, Zorn and BACHLOGIC didn’t disappoint. The RAP album consists of 13 tracks, all produced by BACHLOGIC. The clear and straightforward production leaves room for Zorn’s poetic rap. The only featured artist on the album is Teflon Koda, who appears on the track “Pancake.” Listeners can feel the sincerity of Zorn in the trenches in Itai no tone ke (いたいのとんでけ) and In The Neighborhood, which has amassed over 6 million views on YouTube.
However, there is one downside. The RAP album is only available on the iTunes Store and Japanese platforms accessible only in Japan. This may be unpleasant for international fans who cannot easily access the album. But for Zorn’s fans, this will not prevent them from enjoying the album and eagerly anticipating his next release. 2022 was a busy year for Zorn, with his concert at the Saitama Super Arena and the release of his new album RAP. With impeccable production from BACHLOGIC and poetic rap from Zorn, this album will not disappoint fans.
¥ellow bucks | Ride 4 Life (Deluxe)
¥ellow Bucks is a young Japanese rapper considered one of the most talented representatives of the new generation of Japanese hip-hop culture. Since the release of his first project, everyone has been eagerly anticipating his second album, which was finally released under the name Ride 4 Life. On July 6, 2022, Yellow Bucks released the digital version of the album Ride 4 Life, followed by the CD version titled Ride 4 Life (Deluxe). This deluxe version features collaborations with over 14 renowned artists, including AK-69, JP THE WAVY, TWO-J, Awich, and MoNa, a.k.a Sad Girl. This impressive list of guests includes the production team Space Dust Club led by Dj RYOW.
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By collaborating with artists from different backgrounds, ¥ellow Bucks has managed to reach a wider audience while remaining true to his music. For example, the participation of R&B singer Tina, who has been present in hip-hop culture for many decades, added a touch of melody and emotion to the album. JP THE WAVY, from the same generation as ¥ellow Bucks, was also invited to collaborate on the album, offering a unique combination of styles and sounds. One of the album’s surprises is the collaboration between rapper TWO-J and MoNa, a.k.a Sad Girl, on the track Remember. This title recalls the golden age of Japanese g-funk that marked the early 2000s. Ride 4 Life has been considered one of the best rap albums of 2022. Fans have appreciated ¥ellow Bucks’ creativity and originality and his ability to collaborate with other artists to create a unique sound. With Ride 4 Life, ¥ellow Bucks has proven to be a talented and innovative artist who deserves his place in the Japanese hip-hop scene.
Kandytown | LAST ALBUM
KANDYTOWN, a well-known Japanese rap group, has ended its musical activities after six years. However, they have offered their fans a final gift in the form of a last album titled LAST ALBUM. This album marks the end of an era, allowing the group members to express themselves one last time under the KANDYTOWN label. KANDYTOWN’s last album, LAST ALBUM, is a work of art showcasing each group member’s talent and creativity.
The group’s final album is a perfect showcase for the individual talents of the rappers and DJs in the group. Each member was given a track to express themselves freely, providing various styles and emotions. The final result is an album rich in diversity and creativity, demonstrating each group member’s talent. Despite the end of their musical journey, KANDYTOWN remains true to the musical style that has brought them success for many years. Each track on the album references the origins of rap, using classic and familiar sounds from the golden age of American HIP-HOP. The group also pays homage to their influences by including a quick reference to Mobb Deep’s “Give Up The Goods” at the end of the track METHOD, performed by MUD, Neetz, and BSC.
Although the end of KANDYTOWN is sad for fans, they still have the opportunity to see the members perform together one last time at the LAST LIVE concert, which will take place on March 8, 2023, at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. This will be a unique opportunity for fans to see the group on stage for one last time and celebrate their contribution to the Japanese rap scene.
The members of KANDYTOWN: YUSHI – KANDYTOWN, BSC, DONY JOINT, DJ Weelow, KEIJU, IO, DJ MASATO, MIKI, DJ Minnesota, DIAN, MUD, Neetz, Ryohu, and KIKUMARU
RYKEY | RYKEYDADDYDIRTY
The Japanese artist Rykey is undoubtedly one of the most controversial rappers in his country. His latest album, RYKEYDADDYDIRTY, was released six months after his release from prison, where he had been sentenced for a violent altercation. Despite several arrests and conflicts with other rappers, Rykey is extremely popular and does not hesitate to address real and personal issues in his music. The album RYKEYDADDYDIRTY, partly produced by Bachlogic, also features the participation of three artists – MU-TON, Real-T, and Tao. This project also marked a name change for the artist, who now goes by Rikeydaddydirty. In the same year, Rykey released a second album, CLASSIC LICENSE, which received the same positive reviews as its predecessor.
The most listened-to track from RYKEYDADDYDIRTY is All Go Bless Me a touching confession where a spiritual artist speaks of his past troubles and seeks to find a happier future. He talks about his requests for inner peace and a better lot. In I WANNA SAY HELLO he returns to these same themes while also sending his audience messages of hope and support. He encourages those who are unhappy to remember him and to smile despite the difficulties of life. Rikeydaddydirty has undoubtedly touched the hearts of his listeners with this emotional and introspective album. His music, which addresses complex personal issues, reflects his tumultuous life and the quest for redemption. Despite his controversies, Rikeydaddydirty remains a famous artist in Japanese rap.
WILYWNKA | COUNTER
WILYWNKA is back with his fifth album, COUNTER, released on June 14th, 2022. Since his first album SACULA in 2018, WILYWNKA has continued to progress in his career and make a name for himself on the Japanese hip-hop scene. With his solo projects such as PAUSE, EAZY EAZY, NOT FOR RADIO, and his group HENTAI SHINSHI CLUB, the artist has managed to conquer the Japanese public with his unique style.
COUNTER, WILYWNKA’s new album, consists of 15 tracks featuring artists from the same generation as him, such as Kid Penseur, Sticky Buds, Leon Fanourakis, Young COCO, and MFS from Osaka. The tracks were produced by KM, JIGG, ENDRUN, Hokuto, DJ UPPERCUT, and BACHLOGIC, each bringing their personal touch to the album. WILYWNKA’s style is heavily influenced by 90s rap, with the addition of scratch passages that give a retro touch to his tracks. The first three tracks of the album COUNTER clearly show this tendency of the artist to return to the roots of hip-hop, with sounds reminiscent of the early days of American rap. The artist proves that he has not forgotten his roots and remains true to his style.
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But the album is not limited to retro tracks; some titles, such as “Feeling Like…” express the joy of living. This track, which is one of the highlights of the album, is a true anthem to life, with lyrics that invite you to enjoy every moment and be happy. With his album COUNTER, WILYWNKA once again shows that he is a talented and promising artist on the Japanese hip-hop scene. By returning to the roots of hip-hop and adding his personal touch, he proves that he can create a unique sound and attract an increasingly wider audience.