Upfront 083 / October 6, 2016

Chocola B

JP grime empress, Chocola B, represents for one of Japan's most potent sub-cultures in the best way possible. 48mins of unheard bits from little-known Japanese producers, Tokyo-leaning Plastician refixes and all else.

About this mix

This is a mix I made of friends' music. A lot of it is unreleased and from producers that may not be known outside of Japan just yet. Boiler Room, thank you for the opportunity to make this happen and for shining the light on this scene.

Chocola B

Boiler Room says...

Up until mid-April, experiencing Japan seemed like the uncheckable bucket list box for an East London council estate guy like me. For various reasons, it was only vividly accessible via Tekken, YouTube-based documentaries/music and numerous reads of The Chrysanthemum and the Sword and the like.

For that very reason, the country has remained a constant source of intrigue. Japanese TV adverts always appeared to be the wackiest. It took me an age to learn how to not drop my chopsticks into my yaki udon. But most of all, its surreal sub-cultures — including Dekotora trucking and Tokyo's rockabillies for the impatiently curious — and specifically, their attention to detail within those, has always been astonishing.

As a music fiend, its Japan's uncanny ability to mould foreign musical movements is at the peak of the allure. Their acknowledgements were way beyond simply aping a scene, and they've consistently managed to tack their own, authentic identities onto existing formulas. One of the first foodie spots I went to in Tokyo was blaring out dancehall from its tin can radio speakers. Dancehall. I mean, I'd heard that it was popular out there, but then going on to see people dutty whine to Tony Matterhorn in a club was barmy.

I had that same feeling of confusion/surprise during for my first experience of JP grime. Although that had come many years before.

Although the scene is quite small, JP Grime is one of the longest standing offshoots of the East London original sound. Older than that of the US (bar heads like Tre Mission) at the very least. It's not been without its Western early adopters of course. Joe Muggs put Pretty Bwoy's "Kissin U" on his 2013 Grime 2.0 compilation on Big Dada. Elijah & Skilliam have been chief flagbearers for the sound ever since their first visit a couple of years ago too. I also remember telling friends about seeing a video of a JP grime artist spitting bars on the London Underground at least three to four years ago. Hearing a don spray bars in Japanese, occasionally interspersed with shouts of "reload" and such, was quite something. Especially for a kid from Bow, the home of grime itself.

Going to Japan only amped up the awe. Despite being tiny, the JP grime scene is a potent one. Meeting Pakin, Pretty Bwoy and the others was just as eye-opening as the overwhelming neon lighting of Central Shibuya. They're serious about this ting.

Perhaps the biggest discovery from my trip east came in the shape of the scene's foremost grime empress though. Chocola B appears in our Full Circle: Grime In Japan short documentary, waxing lyrical about the intricacies of Shystie's mixtapes. But her cameo is just an introduction to her knowledge and dedication to eskibeat.

As with a lot of the JP grime lot, remnants of UK pirate radio shows are regularly glued with anime samples and pentatonic scales in her productions. There's also a fun, game-like approach to her workings; full of mischief and a playfulness that offsets the raucous growls of the MCs. Its the type of culture collision that is best explained through riddim.

Upfront 083 features unheard bits from little-known Japanese producers, Tokyo-leaning Plastician refixes and all else within its 48mins play-time. It'll now always act as concrete reminder of my trip out there. But even if you haven't experienced anything like JP Grime, it's quite the introduction.



Andwot juggles head of editorial and hosting/programming duties for Boiler Room.