JP The Wavy is the definition of classic
“I just went with my gut feeling and did a lot of things spontaneously”
This month we got a chance to sit down with one of Japan’s fastest-rising Hip Hop stars, JP The Wavy. Since the release of his 2017 viral YouTube hit ‘Cho Wavy De Gomenne (Remix) featuring SALU’ racked up over 20 million views and spawned countless TikTok clips and rabid fans, JP The Wavy has become one of Japan’s biggest internet sensations.
His style and visual aesthetic rest somewhere between the in-your-face early 2000’s Hype Williams flash and current DIY fun grittiness. Throw in some IDGAF attitude and colorful, funky clothes with impeccable styling and you have the makings of a genuine cult hero for many of Japan’s - and Tokyo’s in particular - online obsessed youth.
Like the rest of Asia, Japanese Hip Hop has been growing and transforming at an epic clip. The Japanese Hip Hop scenes of the 90s and 2000s were club-based and grew out of a direct link to the New York scene.
JP The Wavy has tapped into the earlier JHop like Teriyaki Boyz’s fun-loving throwback vibes but brought it into the Right Now with tight rhymes and slick visuals.
It’s not a gimmick that he’s Japanese. It’s just dope beats and he rhymes in Japanese. Whatever he’s doing it’s working, and JP The Wavy’s music feels natural and fun. Read on to find out his secret formula.
YO, JP! What’s really good man? We’ve been covering you on LiFTED for a while now, and I gotta say, you really have a refreshing style. Can you let our readers know a little about how you came up in the Japanese Rap game?
My parents actually liked to listen to US Hip Hop and because of that, I started listening to it when I was very young. I actually started breakdancing first when I was a junior high school student, getting me more into the culture. After that, I felt that I wanted to rap, too, so I started rhyming when I was 18 and it’s just kept growing from there.
Before you blew up in 2017 with ‘Cho Wavy De Gomenne’ [what does that mean anyway?] what were you doing with your career?
Sorry for being extremely wavy! The name of the song came from my Instagram name @sorry_wavy. I was working in a clothing store at that time, and my co-worker gave me an idea to create an anthem using that ID.
I had been rapping at gigs in some clubs in Kanagawa prefecture before releasing that song. A lot of people might say this, but I just kept believing in myself and what I was doing, even in times when I only had 2 or 3 people in the audience.
You are definitely a product of the internet, and like so many young artists across Asia you blew up on YouTube and TikTok, the platforms for so many Rap stars now. Is this because it’s too hard to get signed as a Hip Hop artist by record labels in Japan? What about now? Are labels approaching you?
No, I don't think so. I just went with my gut feeling and did a lot of things spontaneously. Right now in Japan, Hip Hop is blowing up to the biggest it has ever been, so the labels must be thinking of new strategies to sign rappers.
After releasing ‘Cho Wavy De Gomenne’ I got offers from the major labels, not only in Japan but from other Asian countries. I turned all of them down though…
You have collaborated with a bunch of other Asian stars, including Sik-K, Nickthereal, Sona One. That’s Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia already. And they all rhyme in their own language. How important is language right now in Asian Hip Hop?
Well, I can’t speak English. So, since I was a kid I judged songs by their rhythm and flow. For me, the language isn’t so important. In my opinion, having catchy phrases or flow is way more important.
You did a freestyle on 88 Rising’s ‘Tokyo Drift’ series. Were you a big fan of Teriyaki Boyz growing up? How do you think Japanese Hip Hop has evolved since then?
Yes! I’ve been a big fan for a long time! During my teenage years though, I’d been kind of on and off with Japanese Hip Hop. I guess it’s the same with the other countries, and the current Japanese Hip Hop scene was built by OGs and Hip Hop Heads. We’re just taking it to another level now.
Tell us about your recent single and visual ‘WAVEBODY’ [Remix] feat. OZworld, LEX & ¥ellow Bucks. The gear you’re wearing is so classic. Are you starting your own streetwear brand?
I really wanted to pull off the early 2000’s vibes in this music video, so I thought a lot about everyone’s outfit including the kid dancers. At the end of the day, to me, the Golden Era of Hip Hop is the 2000s. In terms of fashion, music, and other things, the definition of ‘classic’ for me is exactly what you see in this video. And I’d love to have my own fashion brand one day!
Who are your favorite Asian rappers right now?
I enjoy all the rappers with whom I’ve collaborated with like Sik-K, Nickthereal, Sona One, and of course all the Japanese rappers! I struggle to find new artists due to the language barrier, but I’d love to discover more sick Asian rappers!
Growing up, who were your favorite rappers? Who inspired you to start rhyming the most?
The first rappers I liked were Eminem and 50 Cent. How I started rapping was, some members of my dance crew started rapping, and I kinda went with them.
2021 is coming to an end and it’s been a tough couple of years with the pandemic. What are your hopes and plans for 2022?
I really want to go overseas to create some music since I haven’t left Japan in a long time. It Would be great if I could do showcases, and I’m up for collaborating with artists from other countries. Lastly, I really want my music to go viral in the US!