MC Duff and the rise of Japanese grime

This week sees the release of the third Nomine Sound EP. Continuing the multi-artist, self-styled ‘no rules bass orgy’ vibe, the six tracks are split between Nomine and Macabre Unit.

With a heavy grime-twist throughout, both parties deliver some serious scuds but there’s one particular track that stands out… Nomine’s World Of G featuring Japanese grime MC Duff. The end result is a string-snapping vibe with samurai sharp rhythmic bars from Duff. It’s another strong look for grime from the land of the rising sun, following major and consistent scene attention from the likes of Elijah & Skilliam.

“I have been to Japan on tour and met a few of the crews out there like Double Clapperz and DJ Nousless who made me aware of Duff,” explains Nomine. “I have been working with vocalists from other countries for a while (in their own language) so this was a great honour for me. Duff has some serious flow!”

Flow and fire… The staccato edge of Japanese rapping is aesthetically perfect for grime, creating an additional rhythmic layer, energy and sharpness.

“I see vocals as instruments and appreciate their timbre more over the content,” says Nomine. “Radio 1 wanted a translation before they would play it though, which was quite hard work as Japanese isn’t easily translated in English. The main thing they wanted to know is with regards to obscenity, which it does not have or promote. Up until that point, I didn’t even know what the words meant and had already agreed to release it!”

You don’t need to know what it says to understand how it feels. We used this unique opportunity to speak directly to MC Duff to find out more about Japan’s grime scene, where it’s heading and how it’s sounding…

You’ve been on this for a long time and evolved over the ages. Tell us about your roots and road into grime…

I started my career as a hip-hop MC since around 1999. At that time, I was very influenced by the fast rap of the west coast Project Blowed projec. Years later in 2008, I was blown away by Roll Deep’s Rules & Regulations CD my friend MC Dekishi lent me. I was fascinated by a strong sound and rap style I had not heard. I watched a lot of videos from various artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Lethal Bizzle, JME, Wiley, Kano, Skepta on YouTube. And I issued first Grime music mixtape in Japanese in 2009.

That was Grime City Volume 1. What was the Japanese grime scene like in 2009 and how has it changed in the last eight years?

There were no MCs around 2009! Only MC Dekishi, Taquilacci and me. The main DJs were CE$, DJ Tuttle, DJ Eraguru, Ill De Cabeza, Pretty Bwoy, DD Black, Negatin and DJ Yew. They’d been playing grime since around 2004 but there no MCs until around 2009… There are only about 10. I want us to increase that to about 100.

It’s still very DIY and underground isn’t it? And is it mainly Tokyo-based or nationwide?

I think that grime did not receive support from the media at the beginning even in the UK, right? The same situation still continues in Japan. Grime is gradually getting attention here and I think that it will develop further from now. DJ Oneman also asked if there was a lot of crews in Japan? The answer is no. Players are scattered in various places. For example DJ Negatin and I live in Tochigi which is two hours by train from Tokyo.

Every DJ I’ve spoken to who has visited Japan has fallen in love with your country. Mainly the focus on technology, design, detail and rich sense of history. What aspects of UK culture appeal to you?

It’s about treating tradition and your own roots. I think that such place is similar to Japan. Everyone is a gentleman.

Culturally grime is a response to political malignment and oppression. It’s entrenched in street life. What are the cultural influences on Japanese grime?

In Osaka the club became unable to open beyond midnight by the law and you couldn’t dance. It was ridiculous. Also, young people work for very cheap wages. Sometimes they commit suicide due to long hours of labour. These have an influence on us. I also think that Japanese grime imitates superficial techniques but we’re working on that. Of course also rap about grime music itself. About the party. About the land and country and our lives. Songs with more political content do not go down as well, which is a shame.

There’s been media interest in Japanese grime for several years now but I think the really big eye- opener for the world was this time last year with Elijah & Skilliam’s Japanese Grime Allstars mix last year. What was the impact of that exposure for the Tokyo scene?

Definitely. However, there is no media dealing with that here in Japan so it might be more exposed to the rest of the world but not here. Of course it’s great that Elijah & Skilliam really appreciate everyone in Japan and do what they do.

Time to name check and link up. Hit us with the key Japanese grime artists…

I think that the speed of its development is slow in Japan, but it is definitely spreading. The only way is up! Here’s more insight into the world of unknown Japanese grime….

Taquilacci – The Scienist


Japanese Grime MC allstar Sessions

140 Studio Session


Ozrosaurus / OG


Gasface – Fxxk Me


Soaku Beats – Makenai (Feat Dekishi) 


Pakin – Anxiety 


Duff – Sugoi Teion (produced by Negatin)

Nomine & Macabre Unit – NS003 is out now: Support