DJ $hin + Shing02: Pearl Harbor / Japonica
Mary Joy 1998
Featuring: Shing02 (vocals and beat production) / Bas-1 (vocals) / DJ $hin (scratches and beat production) / DJ Bill (scratches) / DJ Ryota (scratches) / Capital (guitar) / Mr. Buckner (bass)
Reviews for Pearl Harbor / Japonica:Polycultural masterwork...
"JAPANESE AMERICAN Bay Area hip-hop artist Shingo Annen proves indie hip-hop can still shock and transform -- indeed, in more than one language. Under the moniker Shing02, Annen confronts his own divided soul on his Pearl Harbor/Japonica EP. On "Pearl Harbor," rapped in both English and Japanese versions, he's at first an ambivalent kamikaze pilot heading into Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, fear in his heart, sadly glancing at a picture of his mother in his locket. Then he's a modern-day rhymer, bleary-eyed and battle weary. How often have you heard a rapper ask himself the question, "What the fuck are you fighting for?"
Ironically, this call for peace has given him more fights than he ever bargained for. Annen -- who runs design and clothing company Empire 22 and does overseas promotion for such local crews as the Living Legends -- took on Japanese nationalism, subtly recasting the imperial chrysanthemum into his own "peace flower," the japonica. More controversially, he placed the famous photo of the USS Arizona -- burning as it sinks to its final resting place at the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor -- on the cover.
In a country where silence over the war allows ultranationalists room to call any contrary opinion unpatriotic, the cover became an object of protest. Music magazines refused his advertisements. The major-label distributor, Crown, pressured the record company. Annen and his bandmate, fluent-Japanese-speaking Jonathan Patterson, found themselves personally putting 3,000 records in white bags. In their own small act of resistance, Annen says, "we made a stamp that resembled the censor stamp from wartime that [the government] would use on Chinese photographers who took pictures of what Japanese soldiers did."
The Tokyo-born, Tanzania- and England-raised Annen has spent the last decade of his 23 years in America. His collaboration with Patterson, "Japonica," is a polycultural masterwork. Patterson structured the music to resemble a concerto -- albeit one that brings together aggressive indie hip-hop with drifting indie rock, transposes Jimi Hendrix solos into Japanese scales, and juxtaposes the Circus DJs' wicked scratching to a children's choir performing Handel.
Like a literal cipher, the record, in creating a new meaning for "Japanese zero," acts as a space on which to comment on transpacific desires -- American desire for Japanese quality and Japanese desire for American cool. "Nobody is saying that somebody is copying something," intones an English-speaking voice. "We are all influenced by different people, and we all do different things with it."
Scratched vinyl phrases from Mic Geronimo and James Brown invoke racial slurs while demonstrating the beginnings of cultural exchange; "Jap Jap Jap Japanese zero" becomes "Zero one two!" But then, just to complicate things, Annen adds a snippet of a documentary on an Asian American martyr, Detroiter Vincent Chin, a Chinese American beaten to death by white racists blaming him for the American auto industry's decline: "The old guy yelled, 'Listen you fuckin' little Jap, why don't you go back where you came from?" says one of Chin's companions about that fateful night. "It was loud, and there was disco music. But I know I heard the word 'Jap.' "
By the end of the EP, Annen and Patterson have made Japonica "the beautiful" into a safe inter-nation -- between cultures and between misunderstandings -- to which they can return. They promise more beats and concepts on their soon-to-be-released "Ecdysis" single, released under the Terracotta Troops alias. "Picking your battle is half the battle," Annen says. "That's why we want to make relevant stuff. I don't want to waste time.""
Bay Guardian - from Jeff Chang's column "Got it Bad"
© 2010 REVOLG MUSIC