The last thing anyone expects one of the country’s leading hip-hop artists to say about the scene he’s part of is that it’s uninspired. But for Japanese hip-hop veteran Kreva, that’s the unfortunate truth. “There’s not really anyone I’m excited to listen to right now,” explained the artist offhandedly at his office and studio hidden on an unassuming side street in Tokyo.

The 34-year-old rapper has watched the genre grow and change from underground phenomenon to commercially viable in the 15 years since he first picked up the mic in 1995 with fellow MC Cue, now Cuezero, and formed the underground group By Phar the Dopest. Although best known for his role as MC and producer in the popular mainstream hip-hop group Kick the Can Crew, since the group became inactive in 2004 the artist has become a powerhouse on the domestic scene and the closest thing it has to a household name.

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