Monday, March 8, 2010

Hip Hop Japan: Vocabulary Quiz

  • Masculinity: 男らしさ、男性権威主義
  • Patriarchy: 父権主義
  • Sexism: セクシズム 性差別主義
  • Object: モノ、モノ扱い
  • Misogyny: 女嫌い、女性蔑視
  • Ho: 売女
  • Bitch: ビッチ
  • Thug: サグ、ワル
  • Incarceration: ムショ行き
list compiled by by 5th Element
    This past Monday night, I attended a film screening and seminar run by 5th Element, an awesome Tokyo based organization and blog dedicated to Hip-hop music and culture. I first ran into these guys last summer at Ian Condry's Hip-Hop Japan seminar and after party.

    Monday's event was a film screening of Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a film by Byron Hurt that takes a critical look at misogyny and sexism in American Hip-hop music. Keiko Tanaka, one of 5th Element's  main contributors, told me after the screening that the members of the group were fans of the film since it came out in 2006 and were patiently waiting for a release in Japan. When one never came, they took matters into their own hands, translating and subtitling the entire film themselves.

    It must have been a monstrous task. The academic jargon of the documentary film must have been difficult enough. But the real challenge I imagine would be translating and conveying the meaning of the various rap songs played throughout the film. Can one think of a more complex usage of wordplay than American Hip-hop music?

    It's something I think about often. The proliferation of American Hip-hop is global, as big in Japan as anywhere else. People the world over listen to great rap music, but how much of the poetry actually passes through cultural and linguistic barriers.

    "Honeys play me close like butta played toast, from the Mississippi down to the East Coast..." I'm sure that plenty of the Shibuya thugs I see listen to Notorious B.I.G., but how many of them truly understand the levels of wordplay of the line above? Hip-hop vocabulary, wordplay, and cultural references are difficult even for native speakers.

    But then again, this could just be my stereotype.  Some of the original Japanese rappers spoke fluent English and picked up the genre in the mid-80's during their travels in the USA. Furthermore, as strange as it may sound, Hip-hop catch phrases and slang have become part of the global lexicon. The aforementioned Shibuya thugs probably wouldn't get beyond the first paragraph of this blog, but ask them about slappin' ho's and bustin' gats and they will probably know exactly what you are talking about.

    The above vocabulary list was passed around for the viewers of the film.

    1 comment:

    John Michael Cassetta said...

    Makes me wonder how many Americans outside the actual hip-hop community know what they're listening to...