Music is like being mixed. Being mixed is being like music. Every sample thats makes of my life’s mixtape is important.
Nostalgia is the funniest thing. It’s hard to define what it feels like and when you feel like you might have an answer it slips away from you like sand in the palm of your hand. Boym describes it as a “romance with one’s own fantasy”.() To be clear, nostalgia doesn’t have much to do with recollection of one’s own memories. It’s feeling rather than a memory.() And you see why it becomes so hard to make sense of it.
Nostalgia is often the result caused by a negative mood, more specifically the feeling of loneliness(). I think I myself can vouch for this. The feeling of loneliness is an ever present feeling and it doesn’t go away unless you distract yourself. I often get lonely thinking about my place in the world as a mixed person. Someone once told me a story about being mixed usinf two plants and how eventually one is going to live and one is going to die and it depends on which you feed. I think being mixed is more like straddling a really tall unsteady fence shaking with exertion and fear and knowing that if either way you fall its gonna end up with you hurting yourself and cut off from the other side. It gets overwhelming sometimes and at some point it gets to a point where it feels like I can’t breathe. Being weighted down by “what ifs”, the knowledge of moving forward with the possibility of being ostracized, or even the fear of not ever being able to define myself. Those are the times I listen to music.
The first time I watched Samurai Champloo, I didn’t know what to think. It wasn’t your typical anime. It was recommended to anyone who had enjoyed the classic Cowboy Bebop made by the same director the acclaimed Shinchiro Watanabe. Samurai Champloo is an anime set in Edo-era Japan where two men: a rōnin and a wandering mercernary end up indebted to a young girl who is looking for the “samurai that smells like sunflowers”. But that’s not the interesting thing about this show. Funimation described it best, “A Time for Courge, A Time for Honor, A Time for Hip Hop.” Samurai Champloo was my first look into hip hop from Japan. It was the only show at the time that hip hop was critical to the show’s aesthetic. The one thing that everyone does remember most about the show is the soundtrack. And this is where the story of Lo-Fi Hip Hop begins. It begins with influential hip hop artist named Nujabes.
Samurai Champloo; Champloo comes from the term “chanpuru” which I believe is means “to mix” or “mixed” This is a good analogy for my identity and also by thinking of the show and it’s hip hop influences I believe contextually Samurai Champloo could mean “Samurai Mixtape”
The Samurai Champloo soundtrack was largely produced by an undergroup Japanese hip hop producer called Nujabes. His real name is Jun Seba and his music has existed in my playlists for years now. My experience with Nujabes is a strange one. I’ve known his name and his music for years now but his face, his goals, his dreams, who he was and how he died are all new information sprung from my research. But it’s not surprising that he is as obscure as he is. He has only produced 3 albums in total and he has little pictures or videos of himself. You can only find a grainy video of him taken secretly during one of his shows. He was very reminiscent of the Djs of old keeping to themselves and keeping the secrets of their music culture.
I quote Nujabes as the Father of the Lo-fi Hip Hop movement because of the clear message of his music and the clear feeling it envokes. Nostalgia. In the depths of Reddit, the Lo-Fi community speak of Nujabes with a sort of reverence in the context of Hip Hop. He’s inspiration and influence to many. His very soul is present within the music and the movement. But people know the man, not the music. Jun Seba is a man who died in a car crash at 31. Nujabes is the Father of a movement forever immortalized on the by aspiring artists and hip hop geeks.
The Asian/American rapper is iconic. As most rappers are. The Masters of Ceremonies, the poets, the ones that gets crowd riled up, they are remembered for their extroversion and their flow. But they are only half of the story. I am more interested in the Asian/American DJ. They are the engineers, the stagehands of the performance. Outwardly they are intorverted and not always very flashy. As people they seem to fade in the background in comparison to their music. To them it’s all about the music. They are less concerned with the question of “do people see me?” they more about the question of “do the people hear me?”
This trait is prevalent within Lo-Fi hip hop artists of this day and age. With the internet as both a shield and a platform, artists are able to keep their private lives closely guarded but share their music in a way that was never possible before. These artists are long detached from the performative and wild sound of the 90s and have transitioned into a more meditative state. Their music stems from the sounds of nostalgia, a feeling that is less memory and more of a feeling. The music is a nod to tradition.
A close friend and collaborator of Nujabes, Shing02, described Nujabes’s music as “feeling like your coming home from a far away place.” I think this is a perfect summarization of the defining trait of this genre of hip hop.
I hear the pitter patter of rain outside my window. It’s early. I can tell by the blue grey light that hints at the edges of the window curtains. I hear the soft drum beat. I left my music on all night. Most days I can’t fall asleep without it.
Lo-Fi Hip Hop is what is described by () as “aestheticized nostalgia” rooted in what I would argue the Asian American experience. It’s a revival and redefining of a genre largely pioneered by Asians and explored and expanded by Asians. The “feeling” of lo-fi hip hop is a combination of different elements of American pop culture. Anime for instance is often present in the music in both images and the music itself. Often tracks hold nuggets of anime from the notorious “golden age of anime”. Spike Speigel from Cowboy Bebop is a popular choice. In the world of anime, he’s iconic. But there is something to be said about the Japanification of the genre.
Artists like Jinsang are of the opinion is not and shouldn’t need an anime quality to be considered lo-fi. (link the tweet).
When we talk about Asian/American influence on hip hop, I think there needs to be an understanding of visibility (and invisibility) in different areas of hip hop. In researching the connection of hip hop to the Asian American experience, I’ve noticed that there has been more success in some areas of hip hop for Asian Americans than in other areas. With the popularization of hip hop globally, we are starting to see a lot more Asian identifying “rappers” especially in other countries. A strange phenomenon seems to happen when we talk about Asian vs Asian American rappers. Upon being prompted how many Asian hip hop artists can you name? You’ve probably supplied quite a few such as G-Dragon from the popular Korean boy band Big Bang, Kohh from Japan, or Rich Chigga from Indonesia. But what about Asian American hip hop artists? Dumbfounded, a Korean American rapper known well in the rap battle scene, Awkafina a female Asian rapper known for her quirkiness, or Blue Scholars a Filipino duo based in Seattle. Contrary to popular belief, Asian presence in hip hop didn’t start with K-Pop.
Since LoFi hip hop is a more instrumental branch of hip hop, I won’t delve to deeply into rappers as it is Djs I’m more concerned with. So when we were talking about visibility in different areas of Hip Hop
In the movie Debut, a quintessential movie set in the 90s about coming-of-age as the child of Filipino immigrants starring Dante Basco there is a scene during the party where the teenagers liven up the party with of course a dance battle. The part of I’m most interested in though is the cut to where we watch a young Filipino DJ demonstrate the well known technique of “scratching”.
This scene is very much a nod to what was happening among the Filipino community in the Bay Area during the 90s. Surprisingly, Filipinos dominated the turntablism scene in the 90s. But why? Groove Music suggests that because of Filipinos invisibilty in
There is a hybridity that exists in Lo-Fi Hip Hop that resonates with me as someone whose mixed. It’s in a sense undefinable. It’s music but it samples vary from different walks of life is it music? (should probably put something about Mark Ronson video)
Nostalgia was originally coined as a type of disease of the mind when it was first recognized. However, more recently there seems to me a more positive psychological function for it. Research says that nostalgia’s biggest trigger seems to be when someone is experiencing a bad or negative mood and the brain’s way of protecting it against stress is through nostalgia.() Nostalgia seemed to also be a symptom of loneliness and isolation.
The more I looked into the symptoms of nostalgia the more and more it seemed to ring some familiar bell in me. It got me thinking about the books and movies we watched in class about Asian Americans and their stories. Their struggles of their warring identities of American and Asian. The isolation and fear. (think of examples to bring up) Nostalgia is both a psychological phenomenon as it is a sociological one.
If nostalgia was a river then music would be the boat.
I think the biggest concept that lo-fi hip hop shares with it’s origins is this idea of “sampling”. I like to think of “sampling” the same way I think about pop culture. It’s taking pieces of the human experience (and of one’s own experience) and combining all the elements to create something, anything. We this idea of sampling beyond the scope of music. Some are obvious, For instance, in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill Vol. 1, the central character known as “The Bride” dons a yellow tracksuit not unlike the one Bruce Lee himself wore in his own earlier movie Game of Death. Some are more subtle, like the influence of J.R Tolkien’s classic fantasy series Lord of the Rings has had an impact on the fantasy genre as we understand it today. As Mark Ronson puts it is an “I can hear something that I love in a piece of media and I can co-opt it and insert myself in that narrative, or alter it, even.”
A favorite song of mine that I consider lo-fi uses this concept very well. It’s a song that only exists on Soundcloud and it utilizes elements from a favorite videogame series of mine, Kingdom Hearts. The artist sampled soundbites from scenes in the game as well as taking it’s recognizable theme music and altering it into what I’d describe a “surreal, dreamlike lullaby”. The artist took an experience and formed
There is a very strong theme of dreams in the texts we’ve engaged with in class. Dreams very closely associated with the desire to be seen as American. There’s a metaphor to be made here. The soundtrack of Asian America is a mixtape. Their lives are an insertion of one;s own narrative into a different narrative the American narrative. It’s American but the hook is Japanese Jazz The mixtape will never win a Grammy. It’s confined to the streets and lives of those who live on them. They are passed friend to friend, older to younger, hand to hand. The mixtape gets more mixed as it goes a long until it can no longer hold definition.
“She….faded off somewhere.” I listen to Spike Speigel’s voice distort and melt away into the soft sounds of a piano and rain hitting cement. I sleep unburdened.