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August 22, 2022 | Tokyo, Japan | by ATTANGO

In 2000, I was in high school; it’s been five years now that I’ve been listening to the same compilation that made me fall into Japanese rap. Scha Dara Parr (SDP), ECD, Soul Scream, Dj Krush, Lamps Eye, m-flo, and Rhymester are all artists whose sounds were already ringing in my ears. Having lived through the golden age of hip-hop in the mid-’90s, I was up to date on the big sounds of American and French rap, which are now mega classics today. However, I was always hoping to find some Japanese hip-hop sounds. At that time, finding resources about hip-hop culture in Japan was almost impossible. Remember that the Internet was not as developed, and no social networks and tapes were the only way to discover international artists. J-RAP was still too far away.

And then came the day in 2005 when an employee of the Virgin Mégastore on the Champs-Elysées pushes me valuable information:If you want Japanese rap, go and see in the Virgin stores in London. You might have a chance. A few weeks later, I was in London and picked up a few records from the indicated music stores. My source of supply of Japanese rap albums is now found, I discover new groups, and like any neophyte, I start with the base: DJ PMX, Seeda, DJ Isso, Norikiyo, Steady&Co

For me, these albums were the doors to an infinite universe of discoveries where the competition between Kawasaki, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Yokohama rappers was very intense. At that time, releasing the project that would extinguish the others without resting at the risk of disappearing was necessary. The generation of the 2000s was nourished by the old ones, greatly inspired by the productions of American black music and which laid the solid foundations of Japanese rap. The production level, rap techniques, and styles have progressed significantly during this period. Sensing the opportunity in terms of profits, some labels started giving these artists more credit. So it was essential to making you discover or rediscover a list of 10 projects, having the most marked 2000. As I can’t list all the albums, you’ll have a second list with other essential records as a bonus.


2001 | Steady & Co. : CHAMBERS

What could be more logical than opening this list of albums that marked 2000 with one of the groups Steady&Co released? CHAMBERS album was presented as a revolutionary project by Bots, Ilmari, Dragon Ash, Shigeo, SBK, and Rip Slyme. This project remains the group’s only album and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. CHAMBERS is a challenging project that brings together artists whose complementarity is effective. With 15 tracks, this album features songs that are still popular today. The sound “Shunkashūtō” has recently accumulated over 10 million views on YouTube, and the iconic “Only Holy Story.”  A track mixing rap and pop, where listeners get carried away by the chorus, including Azumi’s voice. CHAMBERS will be sold to more than 1 million copies but will not allow the members of Steady&Co to continue towards a second album. Only two live parties will take place in December 2001 in Tokyo and Osaka. Other versions appeared in the following years, and the album was reissued in 2009.

MSC, Matador

2003 | MSC: Matador

No one would have thought that Kabukicho (located in Shinjuku in the west of Tokyo), with its sultry and seductive reputation for tourists, would have seen the formation of the most important underground rap group in Tokyo. In the early 2000s, MSC comprised two rap groups; MIC SPACE with MC Kan, Ta-Boo, and the other SIDE RIDE composed of , Primal, and G-Prince. We also find producers like Hardtakle33, Hardtakle66, and DJ O-KI, DJ Kohaku. They quickly took the name of MS CRU; they changed in MSC after the first album’s release, which came out on February 25th, 2003. Leaving the intro and the outro aside, Matador is covered by 14 tracks and leads us in a rather dark and violent universe where the members don’t hesitate to clash with the government, like in the track “Shinjuku Running Dogs.” Unavoidable in this first opus, MC Kan asserts all the strength of the rap straight out of Shinjuku being supported by the other members of the collective. Despite everything, this project will receive a mixed reception from the critics. Fans prefer Primal and MC Kan in their respective solo productions that they find more impressive.

Tokona-X Tokai X Teio

2004 | Tokona-X ‎: Tokai X Teio

Ryuichi Furukawa, better known as TOKONA-X, is a Japanese rap legend who continues to live on through his works in the hearts of his fans. Born in Yokohama, he moved to Tokoname City (Aichi Prefecture), his father’s hometown. As a teenager, he started a part-time job in a record store and quickly became passionate about hip-hop music by listening to several Japanese and American rap albums. His first appearance was at the 1996 Sanpin CAMP (a major Japanese hip-hop event organized by ECD) under the name ILLMARIACHI, alongside another artist called Kenji Kawijari. He then joined the rap group Master of Skillz, which changed its name to M.O.S.A.D. in 2002. Equal, Akira, and D.J. Fixer will accompany TOKONA-X in this collective.

In 2003, he signed his first contract with the label Def Jam Japan which had set up a branch in Tokyo in the early 2000s. On January 14, 2004, he released his first single, “Let Me know and tell you SHOW,” and published the album 14 days later, revealing him to all of Japan: Tokai X Teio. If some of the album’s ten tracks are closer to the prods resembling Californian hip-hop, we retain especially the incredible talent he deploys on each channel. The balance is always perfect with his rhythmic flow, almost singing, including on media with guest artists. Especially with Kalassy Nikoff (now called AK-69) in the track “Let Me Know Ya.” But it is even more true in “Where’s My Hood At?”. An excellent sample of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’,” which can also be found in the famous single “Regulate” by Warren G. Only a few months after the massive success of Tokai X Teio, TOKONA-X died on November 22, 2004. Many speculations appeared around his death after his fans judged the official announcement doubtful. Several artists of the Japanese rap scene pay him vibrant tributes, in particular DJ Ryow, a very close friend of the deceased rapper, who produces many works in his name.

NUJABES : Modal Soul

2005 | NUJABES : Modal Soul

Jun Seba, a.k.a. NUJABES, is the best-known Japanese producer outside Japan. He was one of the contributors to the background music and soundtracks of Samurai Champloo, an anime featuring the Japanese feudal setting with modern anachronisms combined with hip-hop culture. The master of the loop, the god of nu-jazz, and the pioneer of chill hip-hop is all praises attributed to NUJABES when he released Moda Soul on November 11, 2005. His approach to hip-hop rhythms, often mixing jazz influences and creating a soothing atmosphere, has allowed him to be noticed. The prods in Moda Soul are full of addictive hip-hop melodies that are very successful, with piano accompaniments that tickle our ears.

We can hear it in the first song, “Feather,” with the participation of Cise Starr and Akin from CYNE (American underground rap group). The title “Luv(sic.) pt3” with Shing02 also marks the spirits with an impeccable instrumental. Nujabes will not release other projects. On February 26, 2010, he was unfortunately involved in a traffic accident while exiting the Shuto Expressway in Tokyo and died shortly after. This death has prompted many tributes in Japan and worldwide for a producer elevated to iconic status. Listen to Modal Soul, and you will immediately understand why Nujabes is one of the most respected figures in the music industry.

COMA-CHI : Day Before Blue

2006 | COMA-CHI: Day Before Blue

Influenced by the rap music of Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Lauryn Hill, Coma-chi made her name when she reached the finals of BBOY PARK (a popular rap battle competition in Japan that ended in 2017) in 2005. Motivated by numerous messages of support and her newfound fame, she launched the recording of her first solo album with the label Da.Me.Records. Several times cited as one of the best Japanese female rap albums, Day Before Blue was released on February 17, 2006. For this project, Coma-Chi called upon several beatmakers/producers, such as TARO SOUL or Dj Mitsu the Beats, who can be found on the track “4seasons”. Most positive reviews are attributed to the track “michibata” /ミチバタ.

This a track in which the young rapper offers a typical 90s vibe with excellent sound accompaniment for her flow. In addition to her undeniable rap skills, she didn’t just showcase her femininity. She touches on general themes that speak to the lifestyle of people regardless of their gender. The second track on the album, called “Hōrō”/放浪, is a perfect example. Day Before Blue marked the beginning of Coma-chi’s career, and fans who continue to follow his activities in 2021 will not forget the sounds of this album.



THE ALBUM took Japanese rap to new heights with the artists’ performances in the SCARS group. Formed in the second half of the 90s and originating from Kawasaki, this collective combines 2 DJ/beatmakers, I-DeA, Taka Hayashi, and several rappers: SEEDA, Sticky, BES, bay4k, MANNY, SAC, and the leader A-Thug. Childhood friends for many years, they started their musical activities in 2005. THE ALBUM, SCARS’ first album released in September 2006 and entirely directed by I-DeA, is the logical continuation of his participation in two projects released a few months before.

Da FRONT and BACK of January 2006 and the compilation CONCRETE GREEN initiated by Dj Isso with SEEDA. Comprising a list of 13 tracks, this timeless album is not only about innovations but also about texts about social issues. There are also actual and violent stories from the street in Kawasaki, mixing with other rappers. The record will receive praise from all over the world and considerably increase SCARS’ popularity in Japan. Two other projects will be released in 2008 with NEXT EPISODE and in 2010 for the mini-album entitled THE EP. THE ALBUM will be re-released and published on streaming sites in 2019.



Because of his realistic lyrics rooted in his street experience and sharp rap skills, Norikiyo was the most anticipated and acclaimed MC of 2007. Leader of the rap group SD JUNKSTA, Norikiyo is the perfect representation of the rappers from Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. A part of Japan that has provided most of the best graffiti artists and hip-hop dancers. From 2005, he participated in the first compilation of DJ Isso called Concrete Green along with Seeda, Geek, L-Vokal, BES, Q-ILL… Strongly noticed by his peers after this collaboration, he started the EXIT works with Bachlogic, I-DeA, and as a track creator under the name K-NERO.

Upon the release of EXIT on August 15, 2008, the album went straight to #3 in the BEST OF JAPANESE RAP 2007 by the American magazine The source and became the best of the year for the Japanese magazine COMPASS. The tracks showcase Norikiyo’s chiseled flow, filled with anecdotes and real-life stories from his hometown in Sagamihara. “Bullshit,” “In Da Hood,” and “Do My Thing” are essential tracks, unlike “2 FACE,” produced by I-DeA, the flagship and most successful track of this project. For many fans, EXIT launched Norikiyo’s career, making him a fixture in the Japanese rap scene.


2007 | GAGLE : 3PEAT

For the rap group Gagle from Sendai, it was tough to choose between the album BIG BANG THEORY from 2005 and 3PEAT, released in 2007. A few minutes of reflection later, it is indeed the 3PEAT project that I selected for this list of albums of the 2000s. After the success of their first three albums, Hunger, Dj Mitsu The Beats, and Dj Mu-R returned to the studio in 2006 and worked on 3PEAT, released one year later. With 16 tracks, this work includes a majority of the production of Dj Mitsu The Beats. The Japanese specialist of hip-hop jazz who overwhelms us with tracks like; “Yoru na Yoru Na / 夜ナ夜ナ/ Scene #2″, “Hi-Dj!”, or “Wakaki takumi-tachi e / 若き匠たちへ.”

Of course, Dj Mitsu is not alone because a Dj Mu-R accompanies him almost to the top of his art, which deploys all his knowledge by pushing exceptional scratches. We also find a prod of Grooveman Spot, Super Smoky Soul, and Budamunky. As for the rapper Hunger, he fills the whole with poetic passages and a mastery of language in various themes. In this exercise, he is supported by guest artists such as; Coma-Chi, Mummy-D from Rhymester, and Inushiki, a.k.a DOGGY STYLE. 3PEAT is a masterpiece in which the three artists give their best. This project will be reissued in several limited versions.

DJ PMX, The Original


Incontrovertible on the J-RAP scene for many years, DJ PMX, is perhaps the Japanese equivalent of Dr. Dre. Looking at his discography, we understand the importance of this producer in the Japanese rap game. Without surprise, we find his first compilation that marked his career. He teamed up with the rapper Kayzabro and formed the group DS455. In parallel to his activities with Kyazabro, DJ PMX gathered many artists from Yokohama and other regions for his first compilation. And on June 25, 2008, DJ PMX released THE ORIGINAL.

This first compilation includes some tracks in LOCOHAMA CRUISING, released one year earlier. A few weeks after its release, the album received many positive reviews and was considered the Japanese G-Funk’s reference project. Comprising 20 tracks, DJ PMX invited some heavyweight guests: MACCHO (OZROSAURUS), BIG RON, Zeebra, Mummy-D (Rhymester), Kayzabro (DS455), AK-69, El Latino, Fingazz, Gipper, Two-J, HYENA, Destino, Aoyama Therma… How could you miss “4 My City”, “Recollection,” “Just Another Day,” or “Miss Luxury” with HI-D and Gipper? Sound sources completely G-Funk, to please the listeners of this symbolic style of the 90s. In the following years, other volumes of LOCOHAMA CRUISING and the albums THE ORIGINAL II, III, and IV will be published.

RUMI, Hell me Nation


Most of you may have listened to a track by the female rapper RUMI without knowing it. We remember the series of albums started in 2004 with HELL ME TIGHT, followed by the project HELL ME WHY? in 2007, which ended when she released HELL ME NATION in 2009. It is this third project that will mark the minds. The most eccentric of Japanese female rappers for the first time in freestyle in 1996 in the radio show TOKYO FM HIP HOP NIGHT FLIGHT with the rapper Hannya. She then joined Dj Baku and the entourage of artists of the group MSC around 2002.

What we remember the most about HELL ME NATION is the successive work of several beatmakers. In particular, Evisbeats for the main track “A.K.Y.” The production and scratches of DJ Duct are in the way of “Hip Hop’s Guidance,” without forgetting the three shows of DJ Whitesmith. The track “Hajimari wa namida / はじまりは涙” with B.I.G JOE is one of his most outstanding achievements. As in all of his first two releases, RUMI changes the tone of his sharp voice as he pleases and masters the flow of his rap, whatever the beat offers. “Jūkō no mukō / 銃口の向こう,” a boom bap track produced by DJ Perro, a.k.a Dogg, has moved heads enough to confirm this aspect. RUMI did not release any album in the following years. She was deeply affected by the earthquake and nuclear disaster in March 2011. The same year, she will even perform in the Sonic club in Iwaki (Fukushima prefecture) and donate all the profits to the earthquake victims. HELL ME NATION is still available on streaming platforms, and some video clips still exist on YouTube.



2002 | S-WORD : One Piece
2004 | DS455 : Summer Sweetz
2006 | SEEDA : Hana to Ame
ANARCHY : Rob The World
ZEEBRA : The New Beginning
DJ ISSO / Concrete Green
2008 | Bron-k : 奇妙頂来相模富士
2009 | S.L.A.C.K : My Space
2009 | SD Junksta : Go Across Tha Gami River

SEEDA : Hana to ame
S.L.A.C.K : My Space
ANANRCHY : Rob The World
BRON-K : 奇妙頂来相模富士
DS455 : Summer Sweetz
ZEEBRA : The New Beginning
S.L.A.C.K : My Space

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