In contrast, because of linguistic differences, hip-hop music took longer to catch on. Young Japanese adherents could not understand the majority of the lyrics from American hip-hop songs, and instead analyzed and appreciated the rapper’s rhythm, flow and voice. It took nearly a decade before Japanese rappers started to gain any notoriety, partly because of inherent differences between English and Japanese. Japanese is unaccented, and because the syllabic structure lends itself to few rhyming patterns as a result of the limited amount of endings at the conclusion of phrases. (For instance, contrasted with the incredible variety of English word endings, consisting of any combination of vowel sounds, diphthongs and consonants, a rap in Japanese would inevitably get boring because Japanese words end with only 6 possible pronunciations (-a, -i, -u, -e, -o, and n).) Japanese rappers referred to this linguistic dilemma as “the impossible wall,” (Condry, “A History,” 232.) but by the mid ’90’s had overcome it by introducing English phrases for the purpose of rhyme and simulating accentuation on certain Japanese syllables to give it “rhythmic punctuation.” (Opsit.)

From The Bombing of Babylon: Graffiti in Japan


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