Guest appearing in numerous artists’ pieces including Aimyon and Tomita Lab, and even co-hosting a tour with Sho Okamoto, Ryohu proved his independence and strong centripetal force as a rapper in many fields this year. “Ten Twenty”, resembling the form of a mixtape, was released to simultaneously shed light onto Ryohu’s past journeys, his current state, and what awaits his near future. As the head of KANDYTOWN, this rapper, who resembles no one else, has some thoughts.
──You were invited to make many guest appearances in 2018 compared to other years.
Ryohu: “Yes, compared to last year there was definitely more. Last year, I would mostly initiate them. It was also something that I wasn’t very confident in. Maybe it was a bounce-back from last year, haha.”
──I see. Despite your smaller reputation, last year you built up the courage to initiate appearances yourself and that lead you to this year.
Ryohu: “Yeah, last year I appeared in events my old self wouldn’t have. What changed was that these weren’t from my own connections. I used to stay within my own community, and because I cherished those connections I would get invited to places that only my current agency would know. Because it was such a great opportunity, I wanted to answer to such offers too.”
──And you gained things from there.
Ryohu: “Of course. I performed in suburban midnight clubs and such. It almost felt like martial arts training. In other words, I tried things that a normal musician would. Because you never know until you try. On the other hand, there were things I realized I didn’t have to do.”
──But you were also making moves on crossing genres in KANDYTOWN before.
Ryohu: “That’s true. I had always wanted to.”
──I also think of how much of an ‘older brother’ you have come to be.
Ryohu: “Why? Haha”
──I saw what you tell your junior rappers.
Ryohu: “Hahaha. That’s true. I do think I have come to do, and say things people used to say and do for me. However, there are things like that even within KANDYTOWN. To me, it’s a normal feeling.”
──Also, I think you verbally express your senses and feelings more.
Ryohu: “Ah, that may be so. But even now, I sometimes think explaining too much is lame. For example, the way I make announcements can be tacky. It’s okay if it’s broken down and explained simply, but I think explaining insufficiently is the lamest. This goes for everything, but if you don’t try to communicate something, it won’t reach others. I used to be fine with the receiver interpreting things freely, even if it was different from the way I presented it. There are times when I still think so, but if I make an effort to communicate my thoughts, I think the receiver will consciously interpret it the same way. For instance, even if it is not for work, if I told someone, “I like this iced coffee”, they might bring me that iced coffee the next time we meet. Things like that happen from communicating.”
Ryohu: “It’s a small thing, but it could surprisingly be something bigger. Recently I’ve come to think cherishing small things like this is a good habit.”
──One again, being invited to many artists from different fields makes you happy, right?
Ryohu: “Of course! I think it’s something only I could have done.”
──Not even as someone from KANDYTOWN, but as a rapper from this country?
Ryohu: “Right. It’s not about what’s good or bad, but I just think there aren’t many rappers who have the same style as I do. I wasn’t intentionally trying to be the only one, but as I made music I have found myself in a good place. I have always liked music, and incorporated and done hip-hop, rap, and continue to be able to express my music without any restrictions. That lead me to my character now. I think your character is important in many situations. Like, if I suddenly started gang rapping it wouldn’t make any sense, haha.”
──I would actually be interested in listening to that, haha.”
Ryohu: “Hahaha. The importance of your character also applies to things like fashion. I have realized that things like fashion have become something that makes me myself. Even the environment that surrounds me. From the start, I knew I didn’t want to only do hip-hop. How do I explain it… we each have our own beliefs we grew up with, right? I think that links to the genres you adapt, but I think you shouldn’t have to only get along with a person because of his/her genre. Simply because you think they’re cool is enough.
──But, I think you follow hip-hop manners when on-set with artists from other genres. Like the rapper being the one to properly visit the artist. I think it’s a very important thing.
Ryohu: “That’s true. I guess I am conscious about that. Even the fact that I create solos while still being a member of KANDYTOWN. I want to abide by the rules of a rapper. Not an idol, not someone fresh , and not exactly from the fashion scene. I won’t forget what I have done as a rapper. I think it’s fine to do various things, but I try not to forget that I want to stay a rapper.”
──I also felt that in the Material Club song “Material World feat.Mummy D（RHYMESTER）, Ryohu (KANDYTOWN)”.
Ryohu: “This includes that song, but I’ve recently noticed that I feel the most rapper-like when I make personal music. There were lots of third-person perspectives before. Lyrics that had a bird’s-eye view. Many of the lyrics made you feel like you were reading a philosophy book.”
──Ah, I see. Although I think that’s what formed your character.
Ryohu: “I think so in both good and bad ways. But the Material Club song has lyrics that describe how I view my old self today, and how I view Koichan today (Yūsuke Koide). Mr. D has a different relationship with Koichan but I felt like he was close to me. These things are all included in the lyrics of that verse. For example, the line “Boys&Girls who don’t know of ego” refers to how young people today don’t understand how cool RHYMESTER’s Egotopia (A second indie album released in 1995) is. But, the pure fact that us three are making this song is materialistic. This ending may be forced, haha but I’m very satisfied with it.”
──Perhaps if you pursue a balance between objective and subjective views, you will discover a new rap style.
Ryohu: “Yeah, I think so too. Let’s just say to be continued.”
–Anyways, about this new, mixtape-like Ten Twenty. I think of this work as a map that indicates where Ryohu stands now.
──Why did you think to release such style of work, in such form?
Ryohu: “The main reason is because I felt that my last release, Blur, did not do as well as I had hoped.
──Could you elaborate on that?
Ryohu: “There was also the fact that there wasn’t much time between making and releasing it. The rest are simply my rap and my sound making. I wish I had been able to immerse myself in all of the songs. There were parts that I couldn’t even work on myself, so there were sounds that I couldn’t make without explaining it to people. Like that, I wrote out around three points that I felt had room for improvement. And with that, I wanted to create a mixtape to alleviate those bad points before I released a full album. As I thought about my future performances, I noticed I liked many of my past songs.”
──Indeed. As someone who has seen your performances for a long time, many of your older, familiar songs have been brushed up.
Ryohu: “Yeah, exactly. It was fine to just remix it, but I thought, why not just remake it? And for times like that, there are these useful things called mixtapes in hip-hop culture. They used to be subtler and more discreet, but today there are many ways to interpret mixtapes.”
──There are mixtapes that sound almost like an original.
Ryohu: “Right? So to show that this isn’t an album, I made it into a mixtape format.”
──I think you could even do a show with the songs in this order. “Vibes”, produced by OMSB has a back-to-basics beat, but with a hint of freshness. It makes me think that maybe there had been a prototype.
Ryohu: “Seems so, huh.”
──I think there’s also the fact that it’s this beat, but Ryohu’s flow sounds young and is very passionate for something released today.
Ryohu: “Yes, I thought that something passionate would be better. I myself like it a lot. At first I received a different beat and immediately recorded a rap and sent it back, but we both listened to it and agreed there was something off about it. That’s when he sent me the current beat. In that sense, perhaps everything we have done up until now had subconsciously been reflected onto what we created.”
──I can understand the relationships between those who participated also. In that sense, the last song, “Keep Your Eyes Open” produced by EVISBEATS & MICHEL☆PUNCH has a different taste, and leaves an impression. I think it’s the closest thing to pop that you have ever done.
Ryohu: “That may be so. This is also a challenge. For “Vibes” and this song, I’m rapping to a beat I received from someone. I had never made a song out of someone else’s beat outside of KANDYTOWN. Honestly, when I first received this beat from Mr. Ebisu I didn’t immediately like it. But we communicated back and forth to make adjustments. Like changing the hook. I actually wrote the lyrics when I was drunk.”
──It’s got some humor too.
Ryohu: “I thought it was useless to think deeply when I’m drunk. It also took a while to choose the order of the songs. All of the song’s beats, besides this song and OMSB’s song, were done by me so if I threw in one of the two in the middle, the tone of the album wouldn’t match. That’s why I placed OMSB’s song as a final climax, and Mr. Ebisu’s song at the end somewhat like ending credits.”
──The ending credits have a commercial nuance too.
Ryohu: “Yes, yes.”
──The fifth song, “Lux” (feat.MUD) is a new song too, correct? This song that loops, it’s very nice. It has an exotic feel to it.”
Ryohu: “I made “Lux” with Ma-kun (Aun beatz).”
──Ah, it’s got a pretty scale that sounds like Ma-kun.
Ryohu: “Yeah, weird. Haha. Ma-kun is the complete opposite of Taro-chan (Taro Kawahara from TENDRE) and it’s interesting. Taro-chan likes to set things perfectly, but Ma-kun dives into something even if he’s unprepared. But hip-hop is originally beat music so I think the song will turn out cool even if the riff is incomplete. I think Ma-kun has good taste in that. Things transform depending on the compatibility and development. The only other innocent song is “8 Money”, but the collaboration there was with Taro-chan. I had Shintaro Sato, who is from the younger generation and makes for SANABAGUN, do the music engineering and he kindly answered all my crazy specific requests. I consider him as one of the producers. It’s not quite 100% yet, but after doing this mixtape, I think I’ve gotten closer to creating the kind of sound I want. I think I succeeded in creating a base.”
──What do you want to accomplish in 2019?
Ryohu: “I think I was able to find the time to return as an individual rapper. AAAMYYY and Taro-chan has gotten busier, and I want 1MC1DJ to stand confidently too. This is not just dependent on me, but the DJ, lighting, and PA all have to come together at a high level. The theme for this year may be “returning as a rapper”. After doing so, I believe I can do anything.”
──Finally, what things did you think about when you were 14? What would you tell yourself then?
Ryohu: “I wanted to play basketball but since none of the schools close to me offered it, I attended a middle school that was a little far away and I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t what anyone to underestimate me, so that’s when I was a bit cocky. That was when I first felt like no matter what I did, no one was interested in me. I went from a talkative boy to a quieter one. But I realized that enjoying stuff is fun, and I’m originally like this, so as the people around me started to understand me, I recovered in eighth grade. It was a big thing when I realized I had to have a strong identity for other people to notice me. That was when my ego developed.
Also, the fact that I went to the same school as Santa (BIG SANTA CLASSIC) was also big. At the time, those who knew hip-hop were rare. I played basketball while Santa played baseball, but he was the one and only friend who I could talk to about hip-hop. We lent each other CDs and went to shows together. We would also bribe my friend at the school radio to play our favorite hip-hop songs, haha. I also met YUSHI around eighth or ninth grade. We were at Mousouzoku’s show, and we were the only young ones. YUSHI started rapping from around ninth grade. I joined IO and did it for fun. But at the time, it wasn’t like I wanted to be something. I just wanted to do what I did. That was the best part. In eighth grade, you’re still a kid that’s begun to act like an adult, so even looking back now, I would tell my old self to ‘do what you like’.”
photography Yusuke Miyazaki
style Lambda Takahashi
hair Go Utsuki
text Shoichi Miyake
edit Ryoko Kuwahara
Ten Twenty Tour Osaka
Guest Act： SIRUP
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Ten Twenty Tour Nagoya
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Ten Twenty Tour Fukuoka
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Entering the music industry in his teens, Ryohu is an artist that has connected music with people and events with his sounds that go beyond genres and places. He has made guest appearances for PETROLZ, Suchmos, Tomita Lab and many others, and is a member of hip-hop crew KANDYTOWN, who released their first AL (2016) with a major record label. While he receives much attention as a rapper, he is also well-known as an original song maker and track maker. He is famous for his music, car, and fashion that is rooted from his lifestyle, and is the viral topic of the apparel industry through music collaborations and music video releases. He has recently broadened his career as a solo rapper, and released his EP Blur (2017) that follows a mellow yet unique, groovy beat. Participating in compositional music and performing live with his band, his versatility is his appeal. Appeared in Summer Sonic –Tokyo– in 2018 and released his mixtape composed of 16 songs, Ten Twenty in November.
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