Japanese Hip Hop Performance By Ian Condry Essay

Japanese Hip Hop Performance By Ian Condry Essay

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Ian Condry’s engaging and intimate ethnography of Japanese hip-hop performance is both a vivid portrait of a local scene and a subtle analysis of how media forms circulate among such locales in the process of cultural globalization. With a focus on place and performativity, Condry’s take on hip-hop’s globalization in performative genba (Japanese for “actual places”) is an attempt at a new methodological approach to this process. Throughout the book, the author’s conceptual development is enlivened and “kept real” by evocative fieldwork references and a wealth of translated lyrics. This rich ethnographic material sustains the reader through a succession of intellectually challenging discursions in which Condry’s take on hip-hop is often less accessible—but more sophisticated—than his popular subject matter might suggest.
The book is structured as a series of thematic chapters on different dimensions of hip-hop expression: race, MC battling in Japanese hip-hop’s historical development, “genba globalization,” fandom, language, gender, and the market. This multifaceted approach is stitched together by Condry’s conceptual development of the genba, the “actual places” where hip-hop performance and interaction occurs. He analyzes the activity in genba—in his study, primarily small-scale sites of hip-hop performance in Tokyo—as key to understanding how hip-hop is globalized in Japan, and he suggests a similar methodological orientation could prove useful in comprehending cultural globalization elsewhere.

Condry’s lucid and ethnographically rich introduction lays out his approach to genba as places of performance and interaction that illustrate how cultural forms such as hip-hop are globalized. Genba reveal how hip-hop’s globalization is...


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...onsideration he gives them makes for a stimulating and rewarding read. In fact, his willingness to remain inconclusive could be commended: Perhaps because of the hype surrounding their subjects, scholarly treatments of pop culture seem especially susceptible to hyperbole and unwarranted inference. Condry largely avoids these traps in both his style and analysis, evenhandedly conveying sensations without sensationalism and exercising prudence in his conclusions.
To appreciate the simultaneous novelty and familiarity of Japanese hip-hop, readers ought to also sample some audio and audiovisual examples. Condry’s own website provides some subtitled music that is discussed in the book, as well as much more book-related information and article downloads. Youtube.com also has a wide selection of videos on Japanese hip-hop, some of which feature artists discussed in the book.

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