Hip-hop emerged in the mid-1970s in the predominantly black South Bronx, and although it holds its roots in the African American tradition, it was widely adapted into numerous cultures around the world in the following decades. American hip-hop became immensely popular in Japan and Korea with the globalization of popular culture in the 90s resulting from an increase in disposable income, political freedom, and technology that led to an increase in communication between nations (Shim 362).
Hip-hop developed in these countries as an attempt to be more “American,” but developed into so much more. The globalization of cultural practices, like hip-hop, can cause traditional music and a local musical identity to be lost. However, in Cowen’s analysis of Hollywood’s control over the film
industry, he points out that “home audiences often (though not always) prefer native products, if only for reasons of language and cultural context” (380). In the same thread, in Japan, the first step of hip-hop localization was the incorporation of language because it made Japanese hip-hip more unique and more meaningful when messages were communicated in the countries own spoken language and style. Furthermore, hip-hop artists in Korea embraced their freedom of political and social speech within the genre and began to communicate issues that held deep importance specifically to the Korean community (Shim 362). This is seen in Takagi Kan, one of the first successful Japanese rap artist’s, work that is about “Japan’s poor, not some entertainment-based fantasy world” (Hip-hop Japan, pg 109).
Cowen asks if a specifically American culture is being exported with American imperialism, but I do not think that is the case in Japanese and Korean hip-hop. Hip-hop may have begun as an imitation of American music and culture, but over time it has progressed to establish solid footing in each county. A new localized, as well as globalized, culture is being created that is very separate from the American tradition.