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Scene Report

The Torchbearers for the future of Japanese Hip Hop

Enter MFS, Kazuo, Watson, Bene Baby & Sticky Buds

LiFTED | Sabiq Rafid | 22 Feb 2024

Japanese Hip Hop emerged in the late 1980s, influenced by the cultural fusion of American Hip Hop and Japanese youth culture. Pioneers like Hiroshi Fujiwara played a crucial role in introducing the genre to Japan during its early years.

By the time the 2000s came, Japanese Hip Hop gained global recognition, thanks to the internet, collaborations with MCs all around the globe, and youth culture picking up on DJing, breaking, streetwear, and more. The late, great Nujabes in particular, brought Japanese Hip Hop to a whole new level. As a beatmaker, he went on to become a symbol of the Japanese scene, inspiring heaps of MCs and producers with his atmospheric and jazzy beats. Furthermore, the genre's roots intertwine with influential acts like Yellow Magic Orchestra, who, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, incorporated electronic and Hip Hop elements into their music. This fusion laid the groundwork for the later development of Japanese hip hop, providing a unique backdrop that artists like Nujabes drew upon, contributing to the genre's distinctive sound and identity.

In the present, one might consider Japan as the Asian Mecca for all of Hip Hop culture. The streetwear brands are killing it, the dance scene is great, and both its underground and mainstream channels are healthier than ever. Rappers like Awich, JP The Wavy, ¥ellow Bucks, Yuki Chiba [formerly KOHH], CHANMINA, MIYACHI, JIn Dogg, and AK-69 have carried the legacy of their predecessors into today and are definitely killing it. But who are the ones to take the Torch on from them in the future? Here are the MCs LiFTED thinks are on the up and up.


The Osaka-based MC is a leading light for Japanese Hip Hop. MFS’ prowess as an MC isn’t restricted to a specific sound or flow – it’s expansive; traversing genres and spaces. Whether it’s a club set or a collaboration, it goes without saying that she’ll tear it up. She bobs and weaves through her rhymes in the smoothest of fashions, gliding on any beat that comes her way. Hard-hitting thumpers? Laid-back cruisers? Drill? MFS has got it all in her locker.

She’s also part of Tha Jointz, an Osakan Hip Hop collective that consists of MCs, DJs, dancers, and writers – cementing her very spot in its culture as an individual who would continuously push it – and push it, we’re sure she will.


When Kazuo was 20, he made it onto LiFTED’s list of Next 5 – MCs who fell short of the top 50 but were definitely up next. Two years on, and it’s clear as day to tell that Kazuo is already up there. Although he was born in Japan, Kazuo was brought up in New York – allowing him to have a unique experience of honing his craft in the birthplace of Hip Hop itself.

Kazuo has shown time and time again that it’s impossible to box him into a specific box through his border-crossing collaborations, genre-diverse singles, and his ability to be bilingual in his lyrics. In 2023, he dropped a brilliant 10-track album in KAMI!, and he has already kicked off his 2024 with a brand new track in ‘SUGOI!’. The future is bright, and Kazuo is at the forefront of it all.


Watson is arguably the biggest name of the lot, with stellar releases under his belt and collaborations with the biggest names in the Japanese Rap scene. And the fact that he has reached the heights independently is something to commend.

Despite his relatively young Rap career, Watson has a decently-sized discography – four albums, one EP, and multiple singles. What sets him apart, however, is his unique flow and his absolute authenticity. He hails from Komatsushima, a small town in Japan, and he only was properly exposed to Hip Hop when he moved to Osaka. He lives and breathes Japanese Hip Hop, that’s where all his inspiration and aspirations derived from, and that’s what he’ll bring over to the next generation.

Bene Baby

In a time where fast-paced rhymes and faster BPMs reign supreme, Bene Baby cuts through all of it with his own blend of music. The Nigerian-Japanese MC takes it all down a notch in his music, bringing about those feel-good and laid-back vibes that are very much needed in this fast-paced world.

However, don’t take his laid-back demeanor for all that he is, for he can deliverquick 16s if he wants to. Bene Baby is a breath of fresh air in a time when everything tends to go fast. His music reminds you to take a step back and breathe it all.

Sticky Buds

Sticky Buds is an MC that could’ve very well been one during the Golden Age of Hip Hop. His music takes listeners back to the 1990s, both with the instrumentals that play in his tracks, and the flows that he employs on it.

If there’s anyone who knows how to pay homage to that glorious time while still keeping it fresh, it’s no one else but Sticky Buds. Put his 2022 album Get Dream Story on and you’d get exactly what that means. It’s important to remember the roots of where something came from, and Sticky Buds will always educate the younger masses about just that.