For the last 10 years, one man has been taki-ng Osaka's Hip Hop scene by storm. Hailing from the ghettos of his namesake, Nishinari, in Osaka's west, he has managed to rise above the negative influences he battled on a daily basis while growing up, to become one of the city's hottest free-style rap artists.
KS recently got down on the level with Shingo (Nishinari) to discuss the Japanese Hip Hop culture, his passion for performing, and what he wants from his music.
Growing in up in what has been described as Japan's number one ghetto is not some-thing Shingo shies away from. On the contrary, when it comes to his roots, this 33-year old proudly wears his heart on his sleeve — and his name and his music.
“I use the name Nishinari to show respect and pride for my family and hometown, which are so important to me. But if you look at the Kanji, you will see 'nishi', which means west, and 'nari' which means success — something growing up in Nishinari has made me hungry for,” Shingo makes clear.
As a youngster, Shingo was drawn to the Hip Hop scene because of the self-expression he felt he could use it for. “Not only is hip-hop a type of music, it is also a fashion,” he explains. “Everything in Hip Hop is remixed, free-styled, and played around with, everyone has so much fun with it.” With Japanese hip-hop especially, Shingo appreciated the mix of American influences with Asian styles and sounds from using traditional instruments such as the shamisen or the koto to connections that the free-styling rap here has to manzai, a comedy style unique to Kansai.
He became a part of a Hip Hop outfit, with his main role having a PR side to it that invol-ved him talking to everybody — whether it was the audience, fans, promoters or manag-ers. Through this, Shingo's confidence in deal- ing with all kinds of people on different levels grew, and the group around him recognized the special talent Shingo possessed, encoura- ging him to take the mic on stage and go solo.
To begin with, Shingo remembers it was horrifically nerve-wracking, but now just concen- trates on having “super fun”. Already a regular guest on the Osaka Hip Hop circuit, he is eagerly awaiting the start of his national tour in April, and excited about the prospect of new audiences and the inspiration they will undoubtedly give him.
Shingo feels he is able to relate to all people in his audience in some way, no matter what their mood is. “I draw my passion from the people arou-nd me,” he says and adding that he then goes on to use that energy to rouse the crowd before him.
He cites Groove Harvest, held in October of last year, as a perfect example of this, and why he loves performing. “Although it was rain- ing, foreigners and locals alike were getting into it, getting excited by my words. Everybody was having a good time.”
For Shingo this is what really matters, that all people, no matter who are they, be “in the same moment, having a good time together” as they were on this particular occasion.
When asked about switching back and forth between Japanese and English whilst free-styling, Shingo says that this is not a worry for him as “intonation is most important”, which he states is the key to the message or vibe he wants to convey to the audience. “The deliverance of my words, that is my style, is significant. Changing intonation influences the meaning of what I am saying, not the language itself.”
By way of demonstration, Shingo bursts into a verse about the interview I am conducting with him, much to the delight of the people seated around us at Café Absinthe. He makes the transition between languages so smoothly, I barely even realize. What I do take note of are the diverse ways he serves the line “I love you”, and despite myself, I begin to blush and giggle shyly, before I understand that I am getting completely caught up in this moment. And that's precisely what he wanted.
(credit: Kansai Scene article, 2006 http://www.kansaiscene.com/2006_02/html/profile.shtml )