Tokyo-based rapper/singer COMA-CHI became in 2005 the first female finalist in one of the biggest MC battles in Japan. The artist told us about her label Queen’s Room, the importance of spirituality in her music, and her collaboration with the American producer MeccaGodZilla.
You discovered hip hop at the age of 15. Do you remember what you thought of it at the time?
At that time, I felt something very fascinating, exciting, and special about hip hop. When I was 15 years old, hip hop was still very underground in Japan, and it was a culture that felt mysterious, so I felt curiosity and fresh feelings for it. It’s a popular feeling as a teenager.
How and when did you start rapping?
Originally, I was an R & B singer and sang at the teenager’s hip hop party in high school. While playing music with friends of my age, there were boys who rapped around me, and I wanted to try it too. Then I wrote lyrics and started to participate in freestyles, cyphers and open mics. I was about 19 years old.
When did you create the character of COMA-CHI and how would you define her?
At first, I used to rap with my real name, but when I was 21 years old, I chose my alter ego for more popular and professional musical activities. “Comachi” is part of the name of a historical Japanese poet and means “pretty girl.” This word was used in the same way as “Madonna” in the Japanese old era. I chose this name with the meaning that I wanted to play an active part on the world stage representing Japan in the future.
In 2005, you became the first female finalist in the B-boy Park, one of the biggest MC battles in Japan. What did you learn from this contest and how did it help your career develop?
Battle rap is popular in Japan, and I participated because a lot of my male friends who emceed did it.
But the rule – that I had to diss another MC – was painful for me and I didn’t like it very much. I was attacked by the male MCs with a lot of vulgar words, but I turned it around with words that cleverly flew to wit, so the crowds became very excited, and I was a finalist. But I felt that this was a culture for men and no fun for women. At least, for me.
However, since there was no female rapper who had made such achievements before, my name became known all over Japan, gained popularity, and I was able to use it in my career as a rapper.
In 2011, you founded the music label Queen’s Room. Why did you feel the need to create your own structure?
Before I founded my own label, I was signed to a major label and released several CDs. It was a very valuable experience, but it was very inconvenient and unnatural for me to belong to a big company and make music.
Because my motivation for making music was to purely express my thoughts and cool sounds, but the label prioritized selling my work as a product. For those reasons, my creative power disappeared. That meant death for me. So, to live and keep expressing myself, I chose to create my own label.
Your last release is the EP Spiritual Bitch with Brooklyn-based producer MeccaGodZilla. How did you two meet and decide to work together?
Mecca lived in Japan about 10 years ago, when he discovered my music. He became a fan and wanted to collaborate with me for a long time. So, he wondered if he could collaborate with someone from another country during the COVID-19 pandemic and made me an offer. He contacted me through a mutual friend. Because of his enthusiasm and our same interest in spirituality, I decided to collaborate with him.
What part does spirituality play in your music?
For the most part, the theme of the song is based on spirituality. Watch Your Mouth is based on the ancient Japanese teaching of “kotodama” that “the words you say to someone will come back to you.” Paper doll is a song based on the traditional Japanese Shinto ritual “hitogata-nagashi” to wash away and purify the sins in the heart. Astrology Rap talks about the energy of zodiac signs.
Also, my unique style of singing is inspired by traditional Japanese shamanic rituals and folk songs. I express my spiritual feelings through them.
Which of your songs are you most proud of?
All of them! I love all our works equally. My most popular song is Paper Doll though.
What is the female rap scene like in Japan? Are you connected with other female rappers?
There are so many unique styles of female rappers releasing music. Some of them are my friends. They are strong women who are all independent and not afraid of anything.
What are your upcoming projects?
Mecca and I are planning some new collaborations. A music video for a new song is also in production.
What do you think about Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?
I think Madame Rap is perfect content and I think it’s great! I hope that you will continue to use the same style as you do now.