There seems to be a performative style in Japanese popular art that favors over-emoting. Yesterday, the band Kinnan Boyz demonstrated the punk aspect of this idea with an early morning show that was so over the top that the audience seemed clearly put off. I mean, the lead singer was literally foaming at the mouth by the send song.
Kohh does pretty much the same thing for Japanese hip hop. As the most formidably honest rapper in Japan, his brief is total emotional engagement. And while his musical style leans toward West Coast minimalism, he has nothing of the West Coast spirit, which is imbued more with anger than resignation, which sounds like Kohh’s default mode. “Leave Me Alone” is his most characterizing song.
Can Kohh make a difference? On the back of his T-shirt was the logo, Blood Sweat and Gears, a reference to drugs in British slang, and one that he seemed to understand fully, mentioning at one point that it’s something we should talk about. Interestingly, the video feed picked up someone in the crowd holding up a T-shirt supporting Pierre Taki, the electronica artist arrested for drug possession. Would Kohh, if he had been in the same circumstance, have apologized and bowed before authority if he were also caught with drugs?
It’s a plausible question if you consider how seriously Kohh’s music takes his engagement with being out of the loop, which in Japan is especially fraught. Musically, Kohh is getting more into R&B and even singing in the T-Pain style. From where I stood, the audience seemed ambivalent, but maybe I just wasn’t close enough. Kohh may still be too far ahead of them.