August 31 2022
Rapper and pop artist Minami Nakamura’s playlist dives into the impact that Japanese divas have had on her style and sound.
From being homeless and a singer in hardcore and punk bands to a rapper in hyped hip-hop trio TENG GANG STARR, Minami Nakamura’s career so far has been volatile but ascendant. Over the last three years she and producer andrew (of esteemed dance label TREKKIE TRAX) have fused hip-hop and club music, Nakamura herself becoming known for combining punkish energy with an exceptionally skilful, meticulous flow.
In the years since the dissolution of TENG GANG STARR in 2019, Nakamura’s creative partnership with andrew has found itself further teasing the edges of hip-hop and dance. Yet while it’s true that club beats increase the ecstatic potential of Nakamura’s music, enabling her tracks to reach levels of frenzy usually out of reach of most hip hop, she and andrew also thrive within lower-tempo – but no less exact or detail-oriented – styles.
Still yet to release a full-length solo record, it’s an exciting time for Nakamura – so we caught up with her to curate a Selector for The Glow. Nakamura’s playlist theme is ‘Minami Nakamura’s Japanese diva influences’ and it hones in on some of the Japanese pop artists and idols who’ve had the most impact on her musical development.
This song represents the feelings of teenage girls playing in Shibuya. When I came across it in junior high school, I had not yet been to Shibuya – but after listening I remember plucking up the courage to go there with my friends to play.
“I can never let go of my email”, “I don't want to go to school”, “I don't want to stay at home”, “I want to get out of the maze I'm stuck in” and “I want to go home now”…
I love the lyrics, which are sung with a bright melody and express the feelings and struggles of wanting to appear cool like an adult, but still being a child on the inside. It gives the song a powerful effect. I also like the original song “Lonely Girl (feat. K-DUB SHINE)” by ECD, so please listen to those two together.
This was MINMI’s debut single. It was played all the time in my mother’s car when I was a little girl and at the time I felt it was a very difficult song to sing. “If you can sing this, you’ll be a singer!”, I remember my mum telling me, and so I practised desperately. The danceability of the track and MINMI’s singing abilities still fascinate me.
This was the theme song for the film Shimotsuma Monogatari and I loved it when I saw it on a VHS that my mum borrowed.
This one is the solo work of Tomoko Kawase (of the band the brilliant green), for which she has two names: a cute persona, Tommy february6, and this darker persona, Tommy heavenly6. In her lyrical world, the cute words chosen from her unique sense of values are very appealing to me, but in this song she adds a human touch to it. “Hey my friend” is my favourite song of hers that combines originality with empathy, striking a wonderful balance of being both abstract and sympathetic.
Nanase Aikawa’s debut single, this is the only ‘90s song in this playlist and I was only one year old when it was released. I got to know it was when I was in high school, playing with my local seniors. I used to sing this song a lot because I enjoyed the lyrics. Various singers have covered “Yume miru shōjoja irarenai” [“I Can’t Be a Dreaming Girl”] and it is still a much-loved J-pop classic. I love Aikawa’s voice, strength and cuteness – please watch the video along with the music.
A cover of Aretha Franklin's classic of the same name, I used to sing Namie Amuro’s “ROCK STEADY” on my bike or in the car whenever I was in an upbeat mood. As soon as I recognised the song from the TV commercial, I checked out the video as well. The song is great, of course, but I was also very influenced by the visuals of Amuro dancing in heeled boots with her long hair down to her hips.
“I have nowhere to go,” “I have no one to turn to,” “I'm burning up even more,”… I think the lyrics suit her so well.
Kana Nishino is known for her lyrics about communicating by mobile phone, and for her very detailed descriptions of the time before smartphones were invented. Although there are many love songs, my favourite is this one, which I once sang to a friend.
“Even though we're apart, no matter how many years go by, we'll always be the same, won't we, best friend?” The feelings I had for the friend I used to sing this song to remain the same.
The enigmatic singer/rapper MEZZ has only one official release so far. Despite the UK drill style of track, the melody and lyrics are very challenging and show the large influence of Japanese female singers like the ones I have written about so far.
“The nights are a bit long in Tokyo,” – a teenage girl who has never been to Tokyo, like her younger self, bravely experiences the long Tokyo nights. The lyrics make me feel the romance and dreaminess of Tokyo, because it is in this current period of time when, thanks to the Covid disaster, it is not so easy to play. “Gyal Drill” is a song that I hope more people will listen and relate to.
MARIA is a member of the SIMI LAB crew. She has released a number of solo works and is a very popular rapper. Her live performances are powerful, cool and sexy, and I admire her.
“The face of a girl who knows nothing about the end of the world,” “10 years later, don't worry, because it's funny,” “Prepared to seize the chance, ok, unpredictable”.
I think these words are born from MARIA's activities and life, and they give courage to people like me who listen to her. It makes me want to do my best as a rapper too.