Hip Hop Love from Tokyo to New York: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Mika

By Gamal Hennessy

Being a DJ in New York isn’t easy. In addition to learning the technical skills, you have to navigate your way though bar owners, promoters and patrons who often don’t appreciate you. It takes a lot of passion and confidence to thrive in this world. Many people want to DJ but can’t deal with that kind of stress.

Now imagine adding a move to the other side of the planet and learning another language to the obstacles between you and pursuing your dream of spinning behind the decks. How many of us would be willing to face all those challenges to reach our goals? That is what DJ Mika has been able to accomplish. NCI caught up with this old school DJ fresh from her performance at Hot 97 Summer Jam to talk to her about hip hop and living in nightlife culture.

Vital Statistics

  • Name: DJ Mika
  • Hometown: Ibaraki, Japan
  • Inspirations: DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Muro, DJ Mitsuru, DJ Maru and DJ JUNE
  • Last Performance: Hot 97 Summer Jam Interscope booth
  • Next Local Performance: Resident DJ Tues to Saturdays at bOb bar (235 Eldridge St.)

NCI: How were you first introduced to hip hop music growing up in Japan? What is the first artist you remember listening to?

Mika: My older brother has always loved hip hop music. Growing up with him and the music he listened to made me hip hop fan! LL Cool J probably had the biggest impact on me. The first songs I remember hearing were “Jinglin’ Baby” and “Round the Way Girl”.

NCI: What made you decide to start DJing? How did you learn to mix?

Mika: My brother and I spent a lot of time listening to CD mixed from other DJs. At a certain point, I wanted to make my own CDs. I didn’t know how to make them, but I knew I wanted to learn. So, I bought equipment and I started to learn by my self at first. After I came to NYC, I learned DJing from artists who taught me what they knew especially DJ C2. I always appreciated the time they took to help me.

NCI: What made you decide to come to New York? Was it difficult getting a DJ job here?

Mika: After I made my first mix CD, I didn’t think it was very good but I loved it because it gave me the confidence to become more involved in hip hop music. I started to dream about DJing for more and more people.  That’s when I decided to learn more about real hip hop culture and come to NYC.  I’m lucky because the friends I met here helped me a lot to get DJ job and always supported me.  I really appreciate that.

NCI: How did hip hop fans treat you when you began to DJ in New York?

Mika: Most people showed me a lot of respect, but sometimes it’s twice as hard because I’m Japanese and a girl.  It took a long time for me to establish myself. But, I think now I finally get respect for my set and not just because I’m a female DJ. J

NCI: What is the best part of being a DJ in New York? 

Mika: When I decided I wanted to become a street DJ, I knew the best place to do that was in New York. That’s where it all began. Now that I’m here and spinning on a regular basis, I am living my dream. What is better than that?

NCI: Is there anyone you want to shout out?

Mika: I’d like to thank everyone for reading this interview. I want everyone to know how much I love being a NYC DJ.

I also want to give special thanks to DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Starshell, DJ JUNE, DJ Smooth, Taq , Mitsuki, and all my friends!

Also, thanks to General, Nadia, from It’s Done Promotions, Rome from Badboy Records, Daniel from Drity  Magazine, DJ Emmo, Harmen, DJ Fortune, Espinoza from Cajo communications, Powaradio crew, ATS from the Rock Steady Crew, DJ Technic, Dreatraxx from Hoodstarz, my Japan Crew, identity bar crew, Rock and soul crew, Jemiho , DJ CHURCH, DJ Rawbetaz, DJ Krazie Charlez, DJ Max Carnage, Malik, George, Greg from bOb bar, Eli, Fred The Godson, Beats by Dre and DUB. (I can’t write everyone’s name but I want to say THANK YOU for everyone who supports me!!!)

Have fun.

G

Life Beyond Robotz: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Ko-Lition

 

 

In spite of persistent claims that both nightlife and hip hop have been ruined by a lack of creativity, there are still artists and operators in the underground pushing nightlife culture to the next level. Two performers who are making a name for themselves in the world of live hip hop are the brothers DeLorean and Karl. We sat down with them to talk about their music before their next big show at the Knitting Factory this week.

• Genre: Hip Hop/Jazz/Electro-Soul

• Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

• Inspirations: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Digable Planets, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Biggie, Tupac, 

• Previous Performances: Ko-Lition TakeOver Santos Party House!

• Latest Project: Debut album 'Love Jazz Robotz'

• Next Local Performance: May 24th, 2012 'Ko-Lition TakeOver The Knitting Factory'

NCI: Talk to me about the philosophy behind your music and how it compares to the current generation of music?

KO: Part of the idea behind the concept of robots is the assembly line model that we all have to subscribe to in our daily life. We go to work every day, we load up our spreadsheets and contribute to the process of making things work. It is an existence that can feel very mechanical, very robotic.

Even when you talk about creating music and being in the music industry, there are methods you need to adopt and things you need to do if you want your music heard. There are elements of it that are very much like a machine. If you don’t conform to that model then getting your music heard is almost impossible. Of course, there are artists like Prince or Radiohead who can challenge prevailing industry models after they have been established. But nowadays even mainstream artists like Drake have to give their music away for free at some point to get their music out there. Part of Must Be Robotz is an exploration of that reality.

NCI: So the song is basically a critique on the forces of conformity in music and life in general?

KO: We don’t dislike current forms of music. Our music is hip hop with a jazz foundation, but we can get into the more electronic forms of rap. We even get down with dubstep and other types of electronic music. There is a lot of good stuff out there.

Our message is more than just a critique. We’re not attacking people’s lifestyles or society or the music industry. Part of what we are saying is that you need to find your way to enjoy the life you have. Maybe the price you have to pay for your fun and your individuality is your job. That’s how you can afford to do the things you want to do. We have to handle our own management, marketing, booking, legal stuff and production to be able to get on stage at places like Santos and the Knitting Factory because that’s where we can share our music.

NCI: What is it about performing that is so attractive to you?

KO: When you are on stage you are at your most vulnerable. When you go up there and pretend to be someone you are not, the audience sees right through that and they will reject you. You have to be willing and able to put yourself out there and expose yourself to really connect with the crowd. It doesn’t matter if you have to open raw emotional wounds in your lyrics, freestyle a few bars because you forgot your lines or work around the fact that the band has spontaneously decided to go into an extended solo jam session. When you’re on stage the rigid predictable life is gone. You are more alive because things are uncertain and unpredictable. 

NCI: Is that why you use a live band instead of a CD in your act?

KO: That is a big reason for it, but that isn’t the only reason. Some of our major hip hop influences like Digable Planets did their shows with live bands and that was a big inspiration to us. There are some sounds that have a special quality when you hear them live and we want those sounds in our show. But the biggest reason is the spontaneous energy that comes from live music. The crowd gets hyped up from a guitar or drum solo in ways that never happen if you just pop in a CD. We call our record company See Music Live because that is one of the best ways to escape the monotony of what we have to go through every day.

Have fun

G

Links
www.kolitionmusic.blogspot.com

www.soundcloud.com/kolition

www.facebook.com/kolitionmusic
www.reverbnation.com/kolitionmusic

www.youtube.com/Kotubetv

www.twitter.com/kolition