There’s more to Asian hip-hop than just Rich Chigga (a 17-year-old Indonesian rapper whose music video garnered a whopping 20 million views on YouTube). Yuki Chiba aka Kohh, an outlier of the commercial J-music industry, is putting the island nation on the international rap map. And it’s an accolade that’s not to be taken lightly: After all, his 2015 tune “It G Ma” was a viral YouTube hit with over 34 million views as at press time.
Before the online hype, the 26-year-old was producing music for the past eight years, recording a series of mixtapes and launching his debut album Monochrome in 2014. With lyrics that tell of his hard life (the rough translation of one his songs, “Binbo nante Ki ni Shinai”, is “why worry since I’m poor”), set to trap music beats (think Travis Scott and Young Thug, but in Japanese), his songs have resonated with native Japanese youth.
But he’s also made his name known outside of Japan. In the last couple of years, he has produced two albums, Dirt and Dirt II (the former hitting the top of iTunes’ hip-hop chart within half an hour of its release), and collaborated with American rapper Frank Ocean on a lead single titled “Nikes” off the latter’s sophomore album.
Besides his musical prowess, Kohh’s quite the scene-stealer in the style-stakes. He modelled for Japanese label Facetasm last year, and is a fan of labels such as Prada and Alexander Wang. Couple these with the fact that he organised an art show in Paris at the Tokyoites Art gallery last June, and it makes him the breakout millennial multi-hyphenate to follow.
Or, do one better and catch him in person at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Jan 21, where he’s representing Japan for the first time on the event roster. From $185, buy tickets here