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Tokyo’s New Hyperpop Powerhouse

Tokyo’s New Hyperpop Powerhouse

This feature appears in VMAN 49 now available for purchase

If you’re unfamiliar with the burgeoning musical microgenre hyperpop, you soon will be. Sourced from the internet, the sound draws on the sweet-sweet ethos of traditional pop music while completely snubbing the rules of the mainstream genre – think high-octane synths, mismatched production and strongly tuned voices automatically. From New York to London, from Paris to Seoul, hyperpop is rapidly taking over the sonic reins all over the world.

26-year-old rapper Tohji, whose unique sound has inspired an entire underground generation of young Japanese, leads the sound-makers dominating the unorthodox genre. Born in London, Tohji moved to Japan at an early age and grew up between Tokyo and Yokohama. “I grew up in a town with no history,” says Tohji. “It was peaceful but I was dying to experience the outside world, it was driving me.”

    Tohji is wearing a Marine Serre button-down shirt, Cycle by myob tank top, vintage EYTYS eyewear, Calvin Klein Denim underwear, and jewelry owned by Tohji.  On Face YSL Beauty Nude Bare Look Tint In #6

Half of Mall Boyz, the Japanese rap duo consisting of Tohji and hip-hop star gummyboy, the artist made his solo debut in 2021 with KUUGAan 8 tracks full of industrial, ambient rhythms and psychedelic melodies. T-Mix, the artist’s second album, was equally innovative, with slow beats and vocals that fall somewhere between hard-hitting rap and experimental pop in the lead. The mixtape tackles themes of wanderlust and isolation with features from bona fide experimenters like Yeule, Mechatok, and Bladee. “T-Mix is my first self-directed project”, notes the artist. “I spent years in the suburbs [driving] my car, so I focused on creating sounds that feel good when I hear them in the car.

    Tohji is wearing a Marine Serre button-down shirt, Cycle by myob tank top, vintage EYTYS eyewear, Calvin Klein Denim underwear, and jewelry owned by Tohji.  On Face YSL Beauty Nude Bare Look Tint In #6

While Tohji’s sound is undoubtedly cutting-edge, the creator also possesses a knack for nostalgia – a philosophy that is uniquely channeled through his lifelong appreciation of shopping malls. While frequenting Tokyo’s sprawling shopping malls during her formative years, Tohji found solace in the serene, somewhat fictional surroundings of the space on offer. This illusory sense of world-building is also directly visible in Tohji’s work. The artist regularly delves into themes of loneliness while his cutting-edge graphics and updated takes on J-Pop, the dominant Japanese genre born in the 90s, are direct nods to the aforementioned inspirations. And with a follow-up T-Mix Looking ahead, Tohji continues to spearhead an eclectic group of Japanese tastemakers redefining the country’s ever-changing creative scene through a passion for unity, community and collaboration. “Comments on YouTube are superficial and everyone gives more than words in live performances,” Tohji says. “When my music shakes the ground in Tokyo, the city breathes.”

This feature appears in VMAN 49 now available for purchase

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