20 Female Japanese MCs Changing The World Of Hip-Hop: Kagura Sunshine

“Since I was little, I was physically big, so I was always like a big sister character and everybody always came to me to consult with them about their problems. So there, I realized the power of words and, even if there was a negative situation, the way of thinking can convert it to a positive.”

Kagura Sunshine is a rapper and a poet from Miyako City in northern Iwate Prefecture, currently living in Kanagawa Prefecture. The name Kagura Sunshine was inspired by her uncle, who was a Shinto priest, and often danced the Kagura dance, which is part of a religious ceremony. After he passed away, to pay tribute to him, she took the MC name, “Kagura”. In 2011, after the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami destroyed the majority of Sendai and Kagura Sunshine’s hometown area in Iwate, she wanted to “become sunshine” for the displaced people from her region, so she added the name “Sunshine” to her MC moniker.

She first heard about hip-hop during her second year of high school and started listening to Japanese R&B and hip-hop artists like Sugar Soul and ZEEBRA. After graduating high school in Iwate, she moved to Kanagawa Prefecture and took her music with her. About her writing process, she told me, “I’m always searching for the beat that matches to myself and my voice and, when I find something that matches to my voice, I get the words that are suited to my emotions at the time from the drawers of my emotion.” She told me that, originally, hip-hop artists in Iwate had a complex about being rural country people, but, after they lost so much during the 2011 disaster, they have become stronger and hip-hop artists are putting more emphasis on building homegrown scenes and improving their lyricism.

Kagura Sunshine’s latest release, a 7-inch record with rapper Aruma called “Stay With Me”, came out in May 2018 and the beat was made by Yakkle, who often works with popular Japanese hip-hop artist, Shing02. The song was originally about the 2011 Tohoku disaster and she told me that it was the first time that she felt like she could write about the devastation. However, when she found herself singing on the track, she felt that it wasn’t a sad song, but a song of love, so she rewrote the lyrics and the rest is history.

Even though she currently lives in Kanagawa, Kagura Sunshine spends most of her time working in Tokyo but she has noticed that the Kanagawa scene is very confident and the artists love celebrating their local areas. She often performs at Club Family in Shibuya, in Tokyo, and around the Kansai area, near Osaka. She’s also producing new music now for her third album, set to come out on her label, Far East Bay Records. She started the label in 2015 and her husband, Towa, does most of the artwork for her projects, in addition to his live painting performances.

Some of her favorite current producers are DJ Premier and DJ Krush. When I asked her what she wished that our English-speaking audiences knew about Japanese hip-hop, she said, “The power of the word: in English, words have a groove to them, but in Japanese, they don’t. But in Japanese, our words have a soul and I want them to feel that.”

You can find her music on ITunes and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Listen to my interview with Kagura Sunshine here, with interpretation help from Junko Takahashi.

Lyrics for Kagura Sunshine x Aruma – Konya wa PARTY MAKER
Beat by CHIBA-CHIIIBA, Scratches by SPIN MASTER A-1
(Aruma)

I got older, my body is now heavy.
Don’t worry, party tonight.
Popping rhythm and a song like this,
Dance, shout, entirely high.
If you get tired, just sit down,
Go home without being found.
Cool arrangement! Cheers! Tequila!
1 shot, 2 shot, Sunboy Killer!

If you have ears and eyes, should be fun.
Dancer, dance relying on them.
Rapper, DJ, let them listen,
This is the world HIP – HOP, no doubt.
It is not outright, such a flow-master,
Avoid it if you are not interested, for today.
Yes, I guess that’s the way it should be,
Break down like this, take care of it.

That clerk at their part-time job
Has a discriminating ear and seems really good.
Create a local technique and fight it out,
Just a few seconds of chance time, a-ha!
If you can speak, you can dive at the fastest speed,
I have a discriminating nose, groping in the dark,
Rhyme is a coup d’état,
Operating the time, it is a PARTY MAKER!

Yeah yeah, you tell me it’s a fun time,
Leave it to me, I’ll rock the floor.
Try to check meaningful words,
Try to detect your heart beating fast.
Check it out, yo! How are you feeling?
No worries, tonight is the party.
It’s not outright, this kind of flow,
blow up blow up, get high!

(Kagura Sunshine)
I am speaking from a humble place,
The outstanding low voice female in Japan.
Even on the B-side, there won’t be any slip-ups
A-Spin, the master is blowing.
A black donut changed my life.
What it will become? I achieved my dream at that time.
Not an dimwit any more, tough tortoise,
A cool Future is in this hand.

My soul is a non-flattering yellow,
This clown is flying, betraying expectations.
Every time, people want to dance.
2 Turntables, leave it to the DJ.
Wanting this original world as well,
Really shy, but l am an invincible girl.
This verse blows me away,
Lock on your heart, lock-on.

Tonight all ages and cultures in the house, yo!
Everyone has their own roots,
Black disk magic.
To your identity, bi-bi-bi-bi,
To extraordinary days, rigorous and gallant,
Surely everyone is a lyricist.
Rhyme is survival with vinyl,
Yes, that’s it! PARTY MAKER!

Yeah yeah, you tell me it’s a fun time,
Leave it to me, I’ll rock the floor.
Try to check meaningful words,
Try to detect your heart beating fast.
Check it out, yo! How are you feeling?
No worries, tonight is the party.
It’s not outright, this kind of flow,
blow up blow up, get high!

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