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POP YOURS Event Provokes Thought: Can Hip-Hop Transform into Pop Culture?

2024.5.17

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LEX『POP YOURS』2023年出演時の様子
LEX『POP YOURS』2023年出演時の様子

“POP YOURS” will be held at Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Hall 9-11 in Chiba on May 18th (Saturday) and 19th (Sunday).

The theme of this third edition of Japan’s largest hip-hop festival is “Hip-Hop as Pop Culture in the 2020s.” True to these words, this year’s event aims to showcase the current state of hip-hop through a diverse curation of artists.

Writer Tsuyachan reflects on the significance of “POP YOURS.”

Expanding Musical Styles and Genres in the Lineup

“POP YOURS is just around the corner. Launched in 2022 when the Corona disaster was still a reality, this year marks the third time that one of Japan’s largest hip-hop festivals has been held, and it can be said that the festival has certainly evolved over the past three years.

The biggest draw this year will be the headliners, LEX and Tohji. It has been pointed out in the past that the headliners of hip-hop festivals are all similar to each other, as there are still a limited number of rappers who can be called big names in both name and reality. Under such circumstances, the selection of LEX and Tohji can be said to be an excellent choice, and it seems that “POP YOURS” hopes to develop both of them into big names in the industry. Looking back on the past two shows, the audience was younger than expected, and there must have been a plan to make the show viable even with these two young performers as the main performers.

LEX “POP YOURS” in 2023
Tohji’s “POP YOURS” performance in 2023

Both LEX and Tohji have one thing in common in that they both became hits on SoundCloud and gained listeners. They are new generation rappers who have been expanding their communities while increasing the heat of their fans on the Internet and social networking sites. Rappers who mainly use SoundCloud have a strong impression of delivering a broken-down flow in a short song of one or two minutes, but LEX and Tohji have the ability to sing such lighthearted songs while also revealing their raw emotions and drawing out a story. However, while LEX and Tohji sing such light songs, they also have the ability to tell a story while expressing their raw emotions.

Comparing “THE HOPE” and “POP YOURS,” another large-scale hip-hop festival, the former is closer to a mixtape and the latter is closer to an album. THE HOPE” has a format in which many rappers come out and perform one after another, while “POP YOURS” is more of a presentation type that emphasizes concepts. That is why “captivating” live performances that combine LEX and Tohji’s non-hip-hop stylistic beauty of rock and dance music and skillful stage presence is a necessary piece for “POP YOURS” today.

Looking at the rest of the lineup, many of the rappers stand out not only for the power of their songs, but also for their strengths in “how captivating they can be as a show. guca owl, who was promoted to the pre-tri slot, was probably chosen for his powerful stage presence like a rock star last year, and MFS, JP THE WAVY, and LANA, who can put on a show with dancers and a wide stage space, are performing as expected this year as well.

Rappers such as Ralph, Red Eye, and Jin Dogg, who are skilled at capturing the atmosphere of the place, have also shown up.

Other acts that made a name for themselves included the entertaining STUTS and the Createive Drug Store, which also makes clever use of visuals such as videos. In addition to Yo-Sea, SIRUP is scheduled to perform this year as an R&B-oriented act. POP YOURS” is a yearly experiment in the theme of expanding musicality and genre range.

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