10 things you need to know about gummyboy

His debut album 'The World of Tiffany' reminds us that Tokyo’s school of emo rap does, in fact, bang.

by John Buckley
10 July 2020, 12:00am

Breathing new life into heavy, Southern-style rap has become a tall order only few artists have managed to fulfil. Like no other, the genre gifts us an endless barrage of releases that seem to fall into a slipstream of 808s and opiate-induced vocal melodies. But when it’s done well, the genre finds new ways to osmose itself, becoming as exciting as it was to begin with. In Tokyo, the likes of gummyboy, and his friends have found a way to do just that — and not just linguistically.

Marrying sounds of early emo-rap courtesy of Yung Lean with the sonic violence of early Smokepurpp, topped with an acutely digital aesthetic — and an affinity with the mundanity of mid-North Western American life — gummyboy has found a way to make Soundcloud rap feel new again. After thrusting friend and collaborator Tohji into mass popularity following their collaboration on Mall Boyz, gummyboy’s debut The World of Tiffany quickly became one of Japan’s most anticipated releases. And for good reason, too. Fusing rumbling, distorted 808s with melodies which nod to early 00’s emo pop, and a dynamic vocal range spanning everything from dissonant yells to twistedly mystifying vocal melodies, his debut release suggests that there’s a crop of Japanese Soundcloud rappers worth keeping an eye out for.

From self-isolation in Tokyo, we got in touch with gummyboy to hear more about his music, and how quarantine has been treating him so far. These are the 10 things you need to know about gummyboy...

1. He used to play the violin
"But I didn't like it at all and quit immediately. When I started university, I was playing around in my spare time, and Tohji asked me to join him and I started rapping. I've always listened to music, but I guess rap is the first music I've ever done as a performer."

2.One of his earliest influences was Eminem
"At the time I thought Eminem was the only one in the hip-hop industry (laughs), but then I started listening to G-Funk and West Coast hip-hop, and I was really drawn to the non-matchy, powerless feeling, and it's still a strong influence to this day."

3. If he could collaborate with anyone, it’d be...

4.If he wasn’t making music, he’d probably just be unemployed
"Without music, I don't think I would have found what I really enjoy and want to do yet. I think I've probably become a NEET, lol. I guess I used to want to be a football player?"

5. Few of us could match his rate of productivity in isolation
"Suddenly I couldn't go out and got a little depressed, so I just watched movies and cartoons by myself anyway, like I would anyway. I used to spend a lot of time with my family, but recently I've been able to get back into production since I built my own studio. I’ve also made a music video for "Bros Fire" based on the time I spent at home during my self-restraint period, so I hope you'll check it out.

6. Though when he isn’t under lockdown, life isn’t all that different
“[Before COVID] I would go shopping and have dinner with everyone at Mall Boyz. But I also just like to spend time alone and listen to music."

7. The last work of art that made him feel something was LANY’s ‘Thick and Thin’
"I was at the convenience store yesterday and LANY's "Thick And Thin" was playing and I hadn't listened to that kind of music lately, but I was feeling really positive and thought, 'Let’s go for a walk!'"

8.Despite how his music’s described online, he doesn’t feel defined by Tokyo or its scene. But he’d like it if they were heard.
"It's often all lumped together in bookings and web articles, but maybe the hip-hop community isn't really important to me. I don't have many friends. I do check out local artists' songs and videos, but most of the music I listen to in my life is from the US. I don't think the language has much to do with it, just like I don't understand much English but listen to US hip-hop. I don't think there are many opportunities for people from overseas to listen to Japanese hip-hop, so doing something like this is a great opportunity to be heard."

9. Even though he loves hip-hop, the genre doesn’t dictate his writing process
"I make works of art based on my thoughts and happenings in my daily life. I started from there because hip-hop was the closest to me as an expression, and I like hip-hop so I think I'll continue to make songs in the same way. It's just that I think it's up to each person how they listen to my music, so maybe I don't care so much about the genre or classification."

10. Quarantine has taught him some things
"I had always thought that I had a constitution that often caught colds, but after washing my hands and gargling, I didn't catch colds anymore, and I realised that the most important thing is the small things I do every day. There is a lot of talk about the world changing in the age of Corona and the need for solidarity, but this self-restraint made me realise that our daily habits can have the biggest impact on the world."

i-D Asia