At 42-year-old, DJ Krush has seen hip-hop culture transform on a global scale. In his native Japan, he’s witnessed—and greatly effected—its growth from the ground up. His imitable style helped forge the early identity of James Lavelle’s influential Mo’Wax label, and collaborations with Gang Starr’s Guru, the Roots’ Black Thought, and a host of other fire-breathing MCs have cemented his celebrity status among the hip-hop elite. But Krush has accomplished something few others of his ilk have managed to achieve: a cultural intersection of styles that knocks necks just as thoroughly as it expands upon width and breadth of Eastern influence. With Jaku (which translates to “peace and calm”), this theme is fully realized. A blend of domestic MCs, including Mr. Lif and Aesop Rock, lay down vocals over the masterful work of Ken Shima (jazz pianist), Shuuzan Morita (shakuhachi), Tetsuro Naito (kodo drums), Akira Sakata (saxophone) and a host of others. His language skills may be handicapped—this interview was translated, as he hardly speaks any English—and he’ll be the first to tell you he’s had no real scholastic education, but Krush’s teaching credentials are unfadable.
The teacher will now speak…
More than the music, people have commented on the way I live…basically starting from nothing and now being in this industry and doing what I do. Those have been the special comments. My life is hip-hop.
I think it’s true for any culture in any society that when you’re younger, you really don’t look to your history and to your tradition. Now that I’m older—and because I’ve seen the rest of the world—I can sit back and reflect back on what Japan means to me. That was a big part of this album.
I didn’t really go to junior high—I was always cutting classes—and I don’t have an education to even talk about, but if somebody believes in creativity and making something out of their lives, I like that. Those are the things I want to instill in my children; striving for what you think is true and right. I am not talking about school education. It’s about human education.
I’m listening to what I like in the basement, my older one is listening to trance music, and my younger one is listening to anime theme songs. My house is a complete mess with sound. Because they are children of Krush, I would have thought they’d like heavy beats, but no, they like Eminem and trance.
Technology has done good things with the turntables, but sometimes I see that the person using the updated turntable isn’t able to use it enough. It’s almost like they’re being played by the technology, and that is unfortunate. There has to be more creativity on the human side as well. That goes hand in hand.
Tsukuribana Nioi nashi. An artificial flower has no scent. I want to be a real flower. I may not last forever, but I want to be able to enjoy that moment in time and then pass it along.
There are so many people around the world that I really want to communicate with, whether it is about music, philosophy or whatever, and I can’t do that. When I want to talk to a pretty girl, that doesn’t work either, but I have a wife now so I guess that’s okay.
The whole relationship of adult establishment versus non-establishment in Japan is a pet peeve of mine. Even though I’m 42 and considered an adult, I never want to be a part of that side.
People in America say, If it’s good, it’s good. People in Japan muddle the tea. They don’t really say what they mean even though they think it.
When I was little I used to catch bugs and fireflies, but you don’t do that when you get older. That feeling of man against another living thing really gives you a way of looking at things differently. I used to go fishing a lot when I was little. I go a lot now.
The impact it had on my life…no other hip-hop film comes close to that. Wild Style is the reason why I am who I am today.
I worked with Tragedy on my album Milight a while back. He came to the studio with all these girls in tow and they were singing in the hallway. I asked him, Why are these girls singing, and where did you find them? He said he found them on the street because he wanted a chorus troupe for my next album. It was very New York.
If someone feels my music if meditative, it’s not something I do intentionally. You can cut me up, but I am 100% Japanese, so I guess the culture in me seeps out.
The young Japanese kids need to throw it out into the world stage more, not just take stuff in. You know, like Matsui of the Yankees or Ichiro of the Mariners? They are baseball players but they are doing it world class. I hope more talent from Japan has the opportunity to reach out to the world with their creativity.
Of course I have regrets! I caused a lot of trouble when I was younger, and all that was left for me was music. As a payback to all the people I caused grief to, I wanted to succeed in the world. The time I was a part of the underworld in Japan wasn’t a waste in some ways...I guess.
Miles Davis is one of my heroes. The soundtrack to Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud (Lift To The Scaffold) he recorded while he watching the film. There is so much life and rhythm to the sound.
People hand me demo tapes on tour, so I listen to those in my lonely hotel room, but I usually fall asleep to the Discovery Channel.
I’ve seen hip-hop arrive in Japan and spread in real time. I think it will grow even bigger and morph into something new as times goes by. Hip-hop is easy for people to get into. No sheet music!
I was raised on rice, but I do like your hot dogs!