Strolling around the “America Mura” area of downtown Osaka, I realized how hard it is to find worthy photo subjects when everything around you is screaming for attention in some way. This particular day I was in a funk of sorts and was really dreading the black guys draped with rap-vid stylings who step up with a practiced “Yoyoyo, checkit oooooout!” and persistently try to pull you into the hip-hop boutiques that hire them expressly for this purpose.
Objectively it doesn’t seem like they would have a very high rate of success with such crude tactics (reminiscent of the black-suited “greeters” who pester passers-by into girly lounges and “health” parlors). Then again, Japanese are the mark of choice worldwide due to their perceived naivety and the lengths they will go to avoid making a scene or being shamed as much as they are for the presumed portafortunes. For all I know, the boutiques could be doing really well, what with MTV Japan and every radio station in the land inundating the airwaves with really, really, really HORRIBLE JapRap, as well as the constant media spin of black idols like Tiger Woods, Bob Sapp, and any number of chubby gaijin sluggers playing baseball here. I haven’t heard so many semi-veiled references to the size of black male anatomy since junior high. Is this a model example of success or failure of the government’s “internationalization” efforts? In my opinion, Perry may have sailed in a bit too late: These sales tactics arguably exploit their client’s inbred shame as well as their employees’ skin color… But you can explore those avenues later, I’ll just point in the general direction.
When this “stone cold playa” sales tactic first appeared in Amemura some years ago, I would talk to these guys out of curiosity. They would usually consent to small talk after I made it clear I wasn’t interested in the merch. Of course, the talented ones would talk only after I agreed to check out the store. I checked out many of the early stores – nothing special, really, just racks of very expensive baggy clothes, some featuring embroidered signatures of celebrity rappers. I liked these boutiques as they played music I sometimes liked as opposed to many other stores of the period which constantly blared J-Pop Top 10 Countdown from tinny boombox speakers or had succumbed to the “Macarena Fever.” Memories of that just sent shivers down my spine – Hey, just for that, fuck internationalization. Japanese music peaked with big ass drums and stringed instruments adopted from China.
Having just implied I would avoid the morality issue two paragraphs ago, I punish you for making assumptions: It is somehow disturbing to see these guys be used just to sell killa-gangsta dreck in this particular way. On the other hand, a job is a job and working for anybody is assenting to being used in some form. Just because it disturbs me does not mean it is wrong; my automatic reactions to various “race-related” issues are as ingrained as yours so I do not claim that my view is right or universal. But it is my view, and I enjoy exercising the right to express it freely, although I hope nobody gets too worked up about it. This might help: Imagine a peaceful hippie’s serene and strictly vegetarian expression while he sums up his wise views: “There is no right or wrong, it just IS, dude. Peace.” More on this later. (And yes, I know vegetarians are just born that way and it’s not their fault.)
Compared with the present, there were relatively few guys working for the pioneering shops bac in the day, and I eventually got to remember most of their faces and styles. This is an example of my mind’s unchecked background workings: At some point I unconsciously assigned nicknames to these guys according to closest corresponding real-world rapper, but I have never told anybody about this; it was just jarred loose from the memory banks (Reminder to self: Need DDR Upgrade. Wait for MRAM?). Anyhow, the guy who always reeked of Drakkar was dubbed DJ Quik. The guy with a Kangol was an easy LL. Two guys with fake gold chains and letter-shaped rings were EPMD (I don’t remember what the letters on the ring spelled. Damn.). One time there was a guy who looked EXACTLY like Snoop, in fact, it might have been tha shizzolator hisself as I only saw him once – he wasn’t working, just talking with guys who didn’t merit rapper nicknames. Yeah, I might once have been in the presence of the Doggfather… Except for an itty-bitty detail having to do with the way he talked… You see, it wasn’t quite the quaint LBC pronunciation we have all come to know and love.The most damning evidence was the total lack of the words “bitch” and “ho” in his discussion of… Cricket. Cricket as in, “the sport probably not gaining instant recognition in the streets of Los Angeles and surrounding counties.”
You have been patiently gnawing until now and here’s your marrowish treat: When asked, almost all of these guys initially claimed they were American, or regarding specific locale, they were quite often “from LA”. This was highly entertaining to hear. Even though there are all kinds of people in Los Angeles, I would not have bet on any one of them ever having set foot on the continent of North America, much less LA. Their stacatto “Yo-yo-yo wassap G”sales pitch was not really reflective of their true English speaking abilities. After all, they are there to pitch to mainly Japanese prospects. Proficiency in Japanese was required, English usually was not. But you can bet that the Art of Yo was covered thoroughly in early stages of training. This is scary. I have a picture in my mind of one of these guys making enough money to actually take a trip to the states: Departure from KIX. Arrival at LAX. Hotel Check in. Find way to the beach. Watch girls play volleyball… Ah, Cali at last… Watch guys playin hoops. One guy has really nice tattoo. His eyes meet yours. He’s walking over. Maybe you can be homies. Excited! Better make best impression. Ha, easy! Just remember Rule #1 from Osaka branch training: When in doubt, gesture madly with arms. Chest out! Enunciate! Here we go with traditional street/pimp/playa greeting:
“YOYOYO WAAASAAAAAP BEEYAAATCH!?!”