Globalization and Japanese Creativity

As a genre without the distraction of a melody but a well-defined beat, rap offers an opportunity to explore the rhythmic and musical aspects of a language, yet this area remains neglected in hip-hop studies. An interesting case is Japanese rap, which has completely different syntax, vocabulary, accent patterns, and phonemes from English. While rhymes and stress accents punctuate the rhythm in American rap, Japanese verbal arts have traditionally not emphasized rhyming, and the language lacks stress accents. A combination of interviews with rappers, transcription, and analysis supports this exploration of the problems that Japanese rappers initially faced in rhyming and rhythm, the solutions they have applied, and the innovations they have made. Japanese rappers capitalize on their rich vocabulary of Chinese, Japanese, and Western-sourced words to form rhymes, and the pitch accents of the Japanese language and the rhythms of certain morae to create a melodious flow. Language is thus a key factor in adapting a global genre and in the process by which imitation leads to innovation.