“We all have our own different ways of expression, but what we have on the bottom line is all the same: to put importance on individual personalities. So many times we hear the line that “female rappers are good” or “who is going to be the best of the females”, but we are just individuals. It’s personal; it’s different.”
Akkogorilla is from Tokyo, or, as she clarifies, she is from Planet Earth. She first heard about hip-hop when she was ten years-old, in elementary school. When she first learned about Japanese hip-hop artists RIP SLYME and Kick the Can Crew, she was influenced to start writing her own lyrics. At first, she started just writing rhymes to play with rhythms, just for fun, but after gaining confidence and becoming a full-time rapper later on, she has been more influenced by other artists and her unique and vibrant style, juxtaposed in a world of J-pop monotony, has manifested brilliantly.
She first started out playing drums in a two-piece pop-rock girl band called Happy Birthday. During Halloween shows, she would come out on stage dressed up as a gorilla and would play drums behind her friend. At home, she would practice writing and recording and finally took her raps to the stage in 2015. After talking with Ken the 390 and soliciting advice for getting more shows, he encouraged her to participate in local MC battles. At first, she was scared and nervously threw up before most battles but, eventually, she won a few battles and gained admiration from fellow MCs. At the time, much like her friend MC Frog in Osaka, she was one of less than ten female battle rappers in Tokyo but she feels like the number is increasing these days.
The name Akkogorilla came from when she was still a drummer. As she said, “without thinking very seriously about it,” she named herself that because she learned that gorillas communicate through rhythm and thought it was cool. In 2016, Akkogorilla released her first mini-album, “Tokyo Banana”, on Kamikaze Records and it features a track called “Donkey Kong” that sampled music from the Super Nintendo game, Donkey Kong Country.
The gorilla motif continued in November of the same year when she quickly followed up this release with an EP on 2.5D Production called “Back to the Jungle” and, for the video of the title track, Akkogorilla traveled to Kigali, Rwanda. When I asked her how the experience in Africa was, she said,” I can’t say much about that trip except that I had some of the best moments of my life and also some of the worst moments of my life.” The beat for the song, made by HirasaWonder, samples Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Akkogorilla told me that this song really represents her transitional period out of rock music and into the realm of old school and new school hip-hop. She is a big Public Enemy fan and, right now, she told me that she is digging the new Anderson Paak and Princess Nokia tracks.
In early 2017, Akkogorilla released a number of singles on 2.5D Production leading up to the release of her EP, “Green Queen”. In April 2018, Akkogorilla released the “Tokyo Banana 2018” EP as well as her first major label single with Sony Music Japan, called “Yoyuu (Margins / A Cinch)”. The song is really a reflection on her last 3 years figuring out how to be a rapper and gaining the confidence that she can do it and do it in her own unique style. She is also working on her first major label album for Sony at the moment and, when I asked her if she had a title decided yet, she said,” I haven’t decided the title yet, but it’s very clear what I want to say and what I want to do. I’m just looking for the exact words to express those.”
Currently she is organizing annual events in Tokyo called “Donkey Kong”, that blend a multi-genre variety of rock, rappers, beat-makers, and others artists assembled in a unique way that only Akkogorilla can put together. If you check out her Instagram, you’ll see that fans often bring bananas to the show and hold them up to show her their support.
When I asked Akkogorilla what female rappers should be celebrated in the world, she mentioned a transgender Japanese MC named Fuziko, who was born a female and recently married a woman. Akkogorilla glowingly added, “She is the real cool rapper that we can be proud of.” Akkogorilla has a song about gender fluidity called “Ultra Gender” and, she said that, when she met Fuziko, she thought of the song and said, “Wow, it’s real.”
You can find this song and all of her releases on Spotify and, for more information on Akkogorilla, visit http://akkogorilla.yellow-artists.jp/
Listen to my interview with Akkogorilla here, with interpretation help from Junko Takahashi.
Lyrics for Akkogorilla’s “Yoyuu” (which literally means “Margins” or “A Cinch / A Piece of Cake”)
A cinch, (say it) it’s a cinch, a cinch!
While reading the surrounding atmosphere,
Life is finished in an instant.
Before someone says something,
I’m making a comeback to myself.
“What are you doing,? Hey!”
“Who is imprinting?”
“Remember your place!”
“It’s beyond your ability!”
If you move before hearing the voice, the world can be changed.
It saved me; it was not a man,
It was not a prince.
The heart to believe in yourself is king.
(I wonder) why at that time
I did that?
Just remembering it,
I shouted it in the bathroom.
If I repeat being out of place,
After some years,
It would become “normal”.
You can repeat it multiple times,
And live life like a lie,
But before looking down on yourself, reach out a hand.
Fully experience today and create your real self.
A Cinch, (say it) it’s a cinch, a cinch!
Actually it’s not a cinch
Lean, lean and mean, mean, everyday.
I have come to understand, because I have been running,
That the ultimate result is just a cinch!
Although the self-esteem is low,
Nurture the pride.
Getting a laugh only by self-degradation.
I was bound, bye bye!
What about it was frightening?
Someone let me borrow a ruler to measure.
Is it a cool style?
That judgment, I want to make by myself.
Defense mechanisms are abundant
But now: how to, how to,
Check 1. 2.
Many of you are laughing,
You have weapons,
But my magnum
Laughing with the voice volume that is twice as big,
Let’s raise the volume of your inner voice!
It’s really a cinch,
A piece of cake,
It’s a cinch, if you do it.
It’s a cinch, you can do it!
Follow than the natural inclination and smartness.
It’s more important for the heart
to say you like what you like.
Are you ready?
You can recover yourself multiple times,
And live an awesome life like a lie.
I want to live everyday properly,
You, who save yourselves, are invincible!
A Cinch, (say it) it’s a cinch, a cinch!