Formed in 1997, Sapporo-based trio Tha Blue Herb are one of Japan’s premier hip-hop acts, with a hard sound and political edge that provide a refreshing alternative to the commercial sheen of many of their peers. Speaking the night after their storming two-man set at Rising Sun on Saturday, frontman Boss The MC gave The Japan Times a local’s view of Hokkaido’s biggest music festival.
How was Rising Sun for you?
It was great fun, as always. It’s our fifth time to play there. I think we were the only band on the bill who come from and still live in Hokkaido, and the Hokkaido people in the audience seemed to really appreciate that, which whipped up a great atmosphere.
How does it compare with other festivals?
To be honest, Rising Sun is basically a Japanese rock festival, and we’re more into club and dance music, so I don’t really know about rock (festivals). But the festival has great vibes. Other festivals we usually play have DJs playing techno, reggae or jazz music, which we really love. But I think the lineup at Rising Sun is great. The festival doesn’t really have any bad points. The summer in Hokkaido is so short, it’s good to have chances to play outside.
The two other hip-hop artists on the bill — Scha Dara Parr and Tokyo No.1 Soul Set — are much more mainstream than Tha Blue Herb.
Yes, there weren’t any pure hip-hop artists on the bill (besides us). But I’m not too fussy about the classification of hip-hop. You have to have variety, and a lot of people like that kind of music. Scha Dara Parr are very good at controlling a huge crowd from a huge stage, which I think gives them an edge. All the pure hip-hop artists in Japan play in small underground clubs, so there isn’t really anyone who could play on a stage that big.
Do you think Tha Blue Herb will ever be that mainstream?
Well, we always want to succeed and we work really hard. But I don’t know. I think it’s wonderful that we have as many fans as we do who enjoy our music, and I don’t really see anything in the music that most people think is good. I like music with a lot of pride and attitude, and I doubt the music we make will ever sell to a million people. So I’m happy being an outsider.
Did you see any other artists at Rising Sun?
I only saw Ego Wrappin’ (And The Gossip Of Jaxx). We often play together in various parts of Japan, and I’m a big fan.
Have you ever played a show abroad?
Not yet. At the beginning I considered rapping not in Japanese but in English, but I realized that there were a lot of artists who were better with English lyrics than me, and if I was to start learning lots of difficult English words now, it would take forever. Could you rap in Japanese? So I have no option other than to rap in Japanese, and I don’t think people abroad would get it. We do get a lot of offers, but so far we’ve turned them down. If there are a few foreigners who understand what we’re doing and enjoy it, that’s really enough for me.