Over the years, Okinawan-born artist AWICH has made her mark in Japan’s hip-hop community, becoming one of the country’s top acts in the scene. “I knew I was good. I knew I had the skills, and I knew I had the presence. But I didn’t have the guts to say I’m the queen,” the artist shared.
With the help of friend and fellow rapper YZERR of BAD HOP, AWICH was able to gain confidence and own her Japanese queen of rap title. “He came up to me and asked, ‘What are you doing?'” If you aren’t going to be the queen of hip-hop in Japan, who’s it going to be?’ That conversation gave me a breakthrough…about what I was shying away from.”
Inspired by American rap, AWICH has always idolized 2Pac after hearing “All Eyez On Me.” Since then, she has been exploring new ways to incorporate her Japanese heritage with hip-hop. Her new album queendom, which dropped back in March, is comprised of 13 tracks that touch upon the artist’s ascent, challenges she faces and everything in between. “Sometimes you have to step out of your safe zone and just really put in the work,” she said.
Read on to learn more about AWICH and what her musical journey has been like so far.
You first discovered hip-hop music as a teen. What about this particular genre spoke to young AWICH?
My first encounter with this genre of music was through 2Pac’s “All Eyez On Me.” It was something I’d never heard of before that. I don’t know what moved me so much but I was just captured. From then on, I read all of his lyrics and listened to all of his songs and interviews.
Besides 2Pac, who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
Lauryn Hill and Fugees.
What eventually led you to create your own music and release your first EP, Inner Researchin 2006?
I started writing poetry at nine years old and wrote in rhymes when I encountered rap music. I was calling myself a rapper when I was 14. There were guys in Naha, Okinawa, who ran a hip-hop production company. I went to them and said, “Hey, I rap!” and started raping in front of them. They were like, “You’re funny. I think we can do something with you.” After that, they started to invite me to day events and I got to participate in a local compilation album.
What are some of the biggest sources of inspiration for your music?
My diaries. I’ve learned to have a bigger picture of humanity over the years and that’s the biggest source of inspiration for my songs and little things branch out from that like love, fun and fear.
How would you say you have evolved as an artist over the years?
As I mentioned, I’ve learned to have a bigger picture of humanity — like why are we here and what do I live for? That helped me grow as an artist.
Your latest album Queendom is a highly personal, vulnerable and introspective project. What’s something you’ve learned about yourself while making this record?
Fellow rapper YZERR came up to me and asked, “What are you doing? If you aren’t going to be the queen of hip-hop in Japan, who’s it going to be?” That conversation gave me a breakthrough about what I was shying away from. Sometimes you have to step out of your safe comfort zone and just really put in the work. That’s what I learned about myself through this record.
In March, you took the stage at the Nippon Budokan for the first time. What was that experience like for you?
Through my Budokan show, I realized that I can make it work if I try and that dreams do come true. As people responded to the show, I also strongly felt that they really got my message and my music moved them. I am so grateful for that.
What do you hope audiences can take away from your music and performances?
In my queendom, I ask everyone to respect diversity and accept each other as they are to make it a better place for everyone. That’s the role and responsibility of a Queen in my opinion. I hope the audience can take away that message.
It’s safe to say 2022 has been a pretty huge year for you so far. What’s next?
I want to do arena concerts and go overseas!