Despite being steeped in traditions that date back thousands of years, Japanese culture is in a continual state of flux, constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible while incorporating both Eastern and Western influences into the country’s national identity. J-Pop may have shimmied its way to the forefront of Japanese radio over the past decades, but the commercialization of American hip-hop has begun to bleed into the Japanese music scene too, spurring the birth of Japanese rappers that are providing an alternative voice that’s now blossoming on the fringes of the mainstream. Japanese hip-hop is now a fully formed genre and thanks to a thriving community of Japanese rappers, it is taking one of the largest shares of the Asian rap market.

Following the arrival of cult movie Wild Style in 1983, elements of rap and breakdancing culture began to resonate with Japanese music lovers, and it wasn’t long before American hip-hop streetwear dominated Tokyo runways and teen fashion alike in the ‘90s. Initially inspired by old-school American hip-hop, Japanese rap evolved by the early 2000s to the point where rappers no longer sought to emulate Western stars. Instead, pioneering Japanese rappers developed their own lyrical style and flow that connected with the kind of issues that directly affect the country’s youth, helping to distinguish Japanese rap from anything else out there today.

Now that native rappers are finding success in Japan, their influence is starting to be felt in Western rap circles too thanks to collaborations between the likes of Travis Scott and KOHH, a breakout star of the Japanese rap scene. While we’re a long way off from seeing Japanese rappers ride high on top of the American hip-hop charts, growing connections between the two cultures, with Japanese fashion brands at the forefront, mean that such a thing could be possible in the years to come.

Check out the best Japanese rappers you need to know right now:


With six studio albums to his name, Japanese rapper Aklo is by far one of the most established stars of the Japanese rap scene today.

Half-Japanese and half-Mexican, Aklo incorporates English into his songs a bit more than most of his peers, which may be one of the reasons why MTV shone the spotlight on him a few years back following the release of “RGTO”, a song that effortlessly flows with a calm bravado befitting one of the industry’s most promising talents.

Fresh off of his new single "SPARK", Aklo's career is projected to give us more and more gems that secure his place in the Japanese hip-hop charts for years to come.


Another Japanese rapper you need absolutely need to know is Daoko. She first grabbed the attention of fans with the release of her 2013 record, Ututu, at the tender age of 17. Since then, the young star found mainstream success in 2017 with a ballad called “Uchiage Hanabi” that she sang in collaboration with Kenshi Yonezu for the animated movie Fireworks, Should We See It From the Side or the Bottom?.

Inspired by the eccentricities of J-Pop and Nicki Minaj alike, Daoko blurs the boundaries of hip-hop and mainstream electronica with her own unique brand of weirdness that catapulted her to stardom in Japan. Given her ability to veer between rapping and singing with ease, Daoko is destined for crossover appeal that extends beyond even the hip-hop scene in Japan.


Miss the good old days? While trap continues to dominate hip-hop in America, the rap group KANDYTOWN have been taking fans back to a simpler time with their ‘90s throwback style. Not every member of the 15-strong group is a rapper as some also work as producers or videographers, but together, the KANDYTOWN collective retain complete creative control over everything they record, something which is all too rare in music today.

Tragically, the group’s founder passed away in February, 2015, yet YUSHI’s death hasn’t held the group back from world domination having since collaborated with Rebook Classics on a special project in conjunction with their own music.

Back in November 30 2022, the group released their 3rd, and final, full album titled "LAST ALBUM". Marking an end to an era of Japanese rap and hip-hop, KANDYTOWN's various members will return to their own solo projects and leave behing a legacy that will never be forgotten for other Japanese rappers to come.

Kid Fresino

Given that Kid Fresino didn’t even start rapping until the age of 19, the success he’s found just a few years later is astonishing to say the least. Just ten months passed between his first attempt at spitting bars on the track “Come In” and the creation of his entire debut album, 2013's Horseman's Scheme.

Notoriously shy on social media, Kid Fresino instead pours his heart into the laid-back style of his music, capturing the best of '90s backpack rap to the sound of cutting-edge beats. Widespread acclaim soon followed thanks to the raw, exhilarating energy of his first few recordings, and now, Kid Fresino stands tall among the very best Japanese rappers in the game. Not bad for someone who just started out DJ-ing for another rap group called Fla$hBackS.


Hailing from Japan's capital city of Tokyo, rap crew kiLLa gained international exposure thanks to their unique amalgamation of streetwise grime and heavy trap influences that share as much in common with the UK and US hip-hop scenes as they do with their fellow countrymen in Japan. Drawing parallels with the likes of Tyler, the Creator and Odd Future, kiLLa is full of breakout stars like kZm, KEPHA, and Blaise who each hit hard with their extreme wordplay and underground sensibilities.

Just like KANDYTOWN, the crew are also self-sustaining for the most part, taking on the production and engineering for each of their tracks too.

It's hard to summarise in a few words why kiLLa is deserving so much to be part of this list of the best Japanese rappers right now, so I'll let the music speak for itself.


Raised by his grandmother and drug-addict mother after his father committed suicide, KOHH has embraced the poverty and hardship of his upbringing in his lyrics, shining a spotlight on a sub-section of Japanese society rarely acknowledged in the mainstream. This authenticity struck a chord with the hip-hop community, cementing him as a key player - and it wasn’t long until KOHH broke international barriers too.

Frank Ocean personally invited him to drop a verse on the remix to his track “Nikes” and Travis Scott has collaborated with KOHH too, something which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given that both stars share the same kind of menacing yet poignant flow. More than any other rapper on this list, KOHH has what it takes to break out from the Japanese hip-hop scene and become a global superstar, breaking boundaries in the worlds of both music and fashion.


Successful female rappers are still few and far between in her native country, which is exactly why MCpero’s upbeat flow is a breath of fresh air among the grimier female Japanese talents vying for airtime on Japanese radios.

Rhyming about her everyday experiences of love and sex, the Saitama born MC is fully aware that women remain underrepresented in hip-hop, telling the Japan Times that “female rappers of any sort getting attention is good,” although she hopes that more people will start rapping like her in the future. Whether MCpero succeeds to influence others to this extent or not, fans of super chilled yet positive performers like Chance the Rapper will find a lot to like on her records too.


Despite being in their mid 20’s, The OTOGIBANASHI'S have already cultivated the kind of reputation in Japan that few other hip-hop groups can match, alternating between humorous parody videos and eclectic tracks that are reminiscent of Gorillaz at their most mellow. The trio first formed in high school, and their playful love of hip-hop remains evident in their music even now.

Like the best rap crews, each member of The OTOGIBANASHI'S contributes something different to the group’s overall sound and together, bim, in-d, and PalBedStock explore hip-hop culture to its fullest extent, creating fashion for their own clothing label as well as their own unique style of music.


Although most of the Japanese rappers mentioned so far are relative newcomers to the game, Japanese hip-hop has been around in one form or another for over two decades now, so it’s vital we recognize more seasoned performers like PUNPEE who continue to release incredible music too.

While he started out as far back as 2002, it wasn’t until PUNPEE won the 2006 Ultimate MC Battle that he’d receive widespread recognition for his staggering flow. Since then, PUNPEE formed a trio with fellow MC Gapper and his own brother, S.L.A.C.K., as well as producing hits for other stars and even trying his hand at advertisement jingles. With the release of Modern Times in late 2017, PUNPEE solidified his place as a key player on the Japanese hip-hop scene.


YDizzy might be a member of the aforementioned group kiLLa, but his solo career is worthy of being honored in its own right, much like the Korean star G-Dragon who also found success as both a solo artist and a key member of his own collective.

With a melodic drawl reminiscent of A$AP Rocky and the nightmarish qualities of Travis Scott’s best work, YDizzy is one of the most cocky Japanese rappers in the game right now, claiming to have put Japan on the map with his brash delivery. To be honest, it’s hard to argue against that when you listen to tracks like “BMW” and “DAMARE”, both of which have drawn the attention of fans outside of his native country. Japanese hip-hop doesn’t get much darker than this.


Maybe you stumbled upon him in the streets of Tokyo, or more likely on the internet, interviewing drunken people for his YouTube channel Konbini Confessions, as he effortlessly ask questions on everything from your favourite meal to your biggest aspirations in life. Resulting in short videos of Q&A inebriated truth-telling chaos MIYACHI has ammased millions of views across the world as a youtuber.

But don't get it twisted, following on from his debut album WAKARIMASEN in 2019, the New-York native Japanese rapper, as slowly but surely established himself as one of the most interesting prospects in the scene today. His single “MAINICHI II” and album Crows are a testament to his quick rise.

Especially considering his great ability to juggle both the English and Japanese language so nonchalantly, it will truly be his super power to bridge both cultures and unite the audiences.


Mina Otomonai aka Chanmina, is a South Korean-Japanese rapper and pop musician. Debuting in 2016 independently, she released her major label debut album Miseinen in 2017. In September 2021, Chanmina's song "I'm a Pop" was featured in the Netflix film Kate, breaking through the US charts for the first time in her career.

Fluent in English, Korean and Japanese, it isn't just about rapping and singing for CHANMINA. She also produced all of her own tracks and choreographs her dances. She is an all-around artists that only scratched the surface of what she has to offer beyond the borders of Japan.


Japanese émigré involved in the Bay Area indie rap scene, when he first moved there in the mid-1980s after having lived also in Tanzania and London, Shing02 is a must-know when it comes to Japanese rappers and Japanese hip-hop history. We are talking about an absolute legend of the game, that thanks to his long-time friendship with the late great hip-hop producer Nujabes, helped create the jazzy hip-hop genre we all now know and love, and that has become synonym with chill/lo-fi hip-hop.

Throughout his career, Shing02 has addressed important issues from Japanese ethnicity to sexual exploitation to the education system, and while amassing a solid and loyal underground fanbase, he has achieved recognition beyond the Japanese hip-hop scene for rapping "Battlecry", the theme song of the hip-hop-influenced anime 'Samurai Champloo', also produced by Nujabes.


Back to a more up-and-coming Japanese rapper, we have Awich. Let's make it simple here; if your major label debut is with Universal Music Japan, then we can be sure that there is plenty of talent and potential here.

After an early love of hip-hop, a stint in the US for studies, and an unfortunate marriage, Akiko Urasaki aka Awich, decided to pursue her music career only in her early 30s. She signed with Universal in 2020 after having independently released some music before, and truly came of age hip-hop-wise when her album Queendom was released in 2022 to such critical acclaim that she ended up headlining one of Japan's biggest music festivals "Fuji Rock", often compared to Coachella in the U.S.

Will she reach the status of what she is self-proclaiming to become "Queen of Japanese hip-hop"? We'll hope to find out.

For more of our international spotlights, take a look at the best Spanish rappers, or discover our list of the best Italian and Ukrainian rappers to put on your radar.

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