International Flavor: Teriyaki Boyz

. Mar 14, 2008

Wonder why Lupe has those "Japanese tendencies"? Why did Kanye shoot his video for "Stronger" in Japan? Why is Pharrell working with Japanese consultants when designing his clothes? The prolific influence of hip hop around the world is undoubtedly obvious in Japan, but the influence works the other way around, too. For you BAPE fans, you can thank the Japanese for that and, in particular, DJ Nigo. He is also the main designer and co-owner with Pharrell of the Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. So you BBC rockers, you can thank Nigo, as well.

Nigo, in addition, is also responsible for forming together the Teriyaki Boyz, a Japanese supergroup of popular Japanese MCs, consisting of Ilmari and Ryo-Z from Rip Slyme, VERBAL of m-flo, and WISE. With the popularity of BAPE and especially the ingenious marketing strategy of Nigo, the Teriyaki Boyz have amassed a following that extends beyond the islands of Japan. Their first album, Beef or Chicken?, released by Def Jam and BAPE Sounds, consisted of production by DJ Premier, Mark Ronson, Adrock (of the Beastie Boys), Just Blaze, Daft Punk, Cut Chemist, Dan the Automator, DJ Shadow and the Neptunes, an onslaught of producers that helped to make the album a success in Japan.

Their international success, in part due to their collaborations with American hip hop artists and European producers, also stem from their own international heritage. VERBAL, who has worked with Lupe Fiasco on the song "Can You Let Me Know," is an ethnic Korean who was born in Japan and actually educated at Boston University. His ability to speak all three languages - Korean, English, and Japanese - has helped the Teriyaki Boyz transition into unknown territories. WISE is proficient at both English and Japanese, and Ilmari is half-Swedish. With the success of reggaeton artists who speak both English and Spanish and now the rise of the Teriyaki Boyz, one wonders whether the new generation of hip hop artists and listeners will demand a bilingual or even trilingual type of music.

For more information on the Teriyaki boys, check out their website. In the meantime, check out the official videos (below) for their songs "HeartBreaker" (produced by Daft Punk), "I Still Love H.E.R." (produced by and featuring Kanye West), and "Zock On!" (produced by the Neptunes and featuring Busta Rhymes and Pharrell). Even Pharrell got into the bilingual mood by flowing in Japanese.