If you know me, you know that I’m a huge advocate for the international rap scene. But If you know anything about North American rap culture, you know that it is highly resistant to change. One artist, however, is attempting to bridge the gap between Western and non-Western music. BrandUn DeShay, Chicago-born producer and rapper, operates out of LA’s Little Tokyo. He has produced for artists like Mac Miller, SZA, Danny Brown, and Chance the Rapper. However, in the past month, BrandUn DeShay has revamped his entire image, transforming into Ace Hashimoto.
His upcoming EP, GoldUn Child 2, samples clips from Japanese pop, and features local Japanese artists. He currently lives in Tokyo and works with local artists to create unique mixes of American and Japanese hip-hop. Gomen Nasai, the first single Ace Hashimoto has released so far, is a smooth combination of American lyrical flow and Japanese-style production. Fluttering synths play over stripped down bass, as Ace Hashimoto reflects on an unfaithful relationship. Aside from the music itself, I can’t the bubbles of concern that arise as I looked into Ace’s bio and other projects. Even though his representation of Japanese musical and visual culture is highly impressive, it honestly raises some serious questions on the appropriation vs. appreciation front. He lives in Tokyo and collaborates with local artists, but seems to fetishize anime and Japanese visual culture. His Instagram is comprised of photoshoots where Ace Hashimoto wears kimonos and other traditional Japanese garb, coupled with the latest Jordans and flashy jewelry. In spite of this, he captions his images in Japanese, and has bilingual lyric videos for his recent singles. He travels and tours with Japanese artists, respecting their talents and the country they represent.
Despite my qualms with his take on Japanese visual culture, he does represent and respect the musical aspects of Japanese art. His music is unique and of high quality, and definitely deserves your time.