Comparing hip-hop and anime is like comparing apples and oranges, except the former is grown in the suburban cities of the western hemisphere, and the latter is birthed in the metropolises of far-East Japan. The two don’t exactly fit in the same category – no one would ever associate the Migos or Eminem with Naruto or Dragonball and vice-versa. The beautiful yet ironic truth is that the only audience capable of merging the two together is their fans.
The majority of 90s babies grew up on either hip-hop, anime, or both. It’s what young teens growing up in the early 2000s liked. During this time, hip-hop dominated the radio and was on most kids’ mp3 players, while anime was on the rise on television and generalized pop culture. It was near impossible to find any platform or movement that combines the two. The most we got was a few early references from rappers who knew about anime and fan-made AMVs that surged throughout Kaaza and Limewire. However, today things are vastly different – both cultures have intertwined with each other in the most unimaginable and creative way fathomable.
[Lil B is notorious for his fan-made pictures showing him with ‘anime waifus’]
How it Happened:
The internet started becoming more and more interconnected around the time social media became commonplace. By 2010, fans from everywhere in the world were able to communicate and combine anime and hip-hop – two worlds which were long alienated from each other. Moreover, rookie rappers who are heavily into anime were able to get their anime reference-filled music heard thanks to the rise of SoundCloud and YouTube. These two factors were what ultimately gave way to the creation of nerdcore rap.
[There is a multitude of these kinds of pictures featuring rappers with anime characters orbiting within the internet]
The Hip-Hop Community has Always Embraced Nerd Culture:
In the past decade, more and more rappers who were into anime and nerdy stuff started popping up and talking about it. In fact, a sizeable chunk of underground/semi-underground rappers were/are huge fans of nerd culture. Many famous rappers such as Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Lil Uzi Vert, Lupe Fiasco and the Wu-Tang Clan have all been known to show their preference for nerdcore elements within their music, typically sharing their appreciation for anime/manga/video game characters that usually from Japan. Hip-hop has actually always been a fan of this cultural sphere, but the common stigma that being into nerdy stuff is ‘uncool’ has held many artists back from openly advocating their love for it.
[Kanye’s tweet speaks for itself]
An Unlikely, yet Beautiful Pairing:
Both anime and hip-hop have done a lot for each other, especially in the past 10 years. By now anime and nerd culture have considerably merged with hip-hop. It’s not uncommon to hear an anime reference in a rap track nowadays – it’s actually somewhat uncommon NOT to hear one. The world of anime has also drawn inspiration from this unlikely combination: Animes like Samurai Champloo and Tokyo Tribes are just two of many examples that prove the reciprocity of this unlikely relationship. This collaboration is arguably the most evident and outwardly example of the cultural intersection between East and West youth culture.
[Samurai Champloo features an impressive collection of rap in its soundtrack]
The Reign of Nerdcore Rap:
There’s a massive online discography of nerdcore rap that’s been constantly expanded on for years now. Underground rappers have typically shown a very deep and open appreciation for cultural-artsy-nerdy stuff. Their appreciation for it helped Nerdcore merge in its early beginnings, with MC Frontalot being the first famous nerdcore rapper. Richie Branson is a nerdcore veteran who not only raps about cultural artsy-nerdy-stuff but also produces music and designs and develops video games. If there’s any artist whose an ideal choice to get started with nerdcore rap, it’s this guy. There’s also the hard-hitting Mega Ran, an artist whose coined his stage name from the popular video game/anime Mega Man. His 2007 Mega Man tribute album ‘Mega Ran’ earned him a licensing deal with the Mega Man franchise publisher Capcom, as well as the chance to perform at the Capcom booth at San Diego’s Comic-Con.
[Richie Branson’s Gundam Wing-inspired EP]
Nerdcore’s Produced its own Byproduct:
Hip-hop has long opened its borders and allowed cultural artsy nerds to become artisans in its craft. This new wave of Nerdcore has become so popular over the years that it’s spawned a new subgenre: ‘Trapime’. Trapime is essentially Nerdcore’s answer to Trap Rap – not all rappers prefer to be lyrical, some opt for banging beats with a melodic delivery that’s still focused on anime/cultural-artsy-nerdy stuff. Trapime is a term coined by artist Detox the Kid, who has a whole collection of Trapime music on YouTube and SoundCloud. The music is essentially trap-centric, hard bassed 808-infused beats with anime-referenced lyrics to go along with it. Some beats even have anime soundtrack samples on them.
[Detox The Kid’s Trapime Mixtape]
Trapime is Anime’s Ambassador to Rap:
Detox’s latest video ‘Yuri on Ice‘ is his most ambitious project yet, showcasing unique anime-inspired aesthetics on a music video format. Detox’s sheer, undeniable consistency nourishes his SoundCloud page with content and helps it gain followers. He uploads a new track almost every week that adds on to his already impressive discography. His frequent collaborator Mic Dee is also another Trapime heavyweight, with a considerably sized discography and a sharp tongue that imbues striking lyricism in his tracks. A lot of his songs highlight his impressive rhyming skills and smooth delivery as opposed to Detox the Kid’s melodic trap-infused vocals.
Both Sub-Genres are Prime Examples of Cultural Fusion:
Nerdcore/Trapime show that the stark contrast between Anime/Nerd culture and Hip-Hop is actually very thin, and both mediums can be combined to showcase an undeniably magnetic chemistry. Combining both is like caramel and salt – you wouldn’t think they go well together at first, but once you get a taste of it you can’t deny the synergy. Trapime and nerdcore are possibly the best examples of how cultural artsy nerds from all over the world can merge two things they love into one hard-to-ignore movement. This level of cultural intersecting and mixing proves that Eastern and Western societies are fully capable of meeting each other halfway and simultaneously extending a bridge to one another.