An anomaly hit the iTunes Japan hip hop charts last week.
“Serious Fools” by Trill Clinton shot up to the number 2 spot with no promotion and no label. Six tracks of rapid fire back-and-forth rhymes and bass-heavy trap beats plus a neon Ninja Turtles-inspired cover was enough to launch the album past rap royalty like Kendrick Lamar.
The men behind Trill Clinton are emcees ISH-ONE and CRAZY-T. Although the longtime friends have serious cred in the Japanese hip hop scene, they began this collaboration as a joke. We talked to Trill Clinton about their new album, their new “Trill Clinton” Ustream show, and the hip hop scene in Japan.
How did you create “Serious Fools?”
CRAZY-T: ISH and I had been making a lot of music together for about four or five years for our own projects, and spent a lot of time touring together. Whenever we hung out, about 99% of our conversation was joking about nonsense. We had mostly made somewhat serious music before this, but we thought, “Why not put this nonsense together into an album?”
ISH-ONE: It was all a joke we’ve been talking about. We always joke around when we’re in the studio and we decided to make a whole album that was “joke” and funny as fuck.
CRAZY-T: The recording always went the same way; we would go to the studio, eat, get inebriated and just joke about ridiculous stuff until we said to one another, “That’s the song!” We would choose a beat or make one on the spot. We actually recorded a few more, but narrowed it down to the best 6. Some of them were too ridiculous even for this type of record, for instance we had a track called “Lame Ass Fucker”, that didn’t make the cut.
What’s your favorite song on the EP and why?
ISH-ONE: It’s hard to decide but it would be “JEDI NIGHTS featuring CHIZA DOPENESS. He is one of the dopest MCs in Japan. We were on the same song by CRAZY-T called “BAD AS FXXK” and it was so much fun to create music together again.
CRAZY-T: My favorite song is probably “Gaijin Flow,” because I played with my flow a lot, did half of the verse in Japanese, and we turned a negative into a positive. In the Japanese hip hop scene there is a lot of resentment towards people that only listen to Western hip hop because they feel that those people think Japan is “uncool.” So there is some negativity towards Japanese rappers who rap in English or foreign rappers in Japan. This song is directed at them.
What are the themes you cover lyrically on the album?
CRAZY-T: Everything started as a joke, but every song tries to make some sort of point about something in the scene or something going on in Japan. We tried to point out our issues with the close-mindedness of Japanese hip hop while at the same time having fun and making it somewhat light hearted. Hence the title “Serious Fools”.
ISH-ONE: It’s all about being the greatest fool, enjoying shit, expressing yourself, getting high, and mostly laughing our way through life.
What’s the Trill Clinton Show Ustream going to be like?
ISH-ONE: Same as the album: talking shit, making fun of ‘em, and crazy freestyles. It’s gonna be lots of fun, and seriously hilarious!
CRAZY-T: As ISH and I cannot be serious together, it will be hip hop commentary mixed in with skits, sketches, and lots of ridiculousness. Basically a comedy/variety talk show for hip hop listeners.
Your lyrics often cover politics and social issues. What role do you think hip hop plays in society at large?
CRAZY-T: Since hip hop is about self-expression, I think that hip hop gives a voice to a young generation that feels otherwise silenced and ignored in this society. It gives them a chance to express views and opinions about topics that would otherwise go unheard.
ISH-ONE: Hip hop used to be more street and hard, rebellious type of music back in the days. Nowadays it has more space for more generations and types of people. But hip hop still has strong voice in youth and moves people. So I believe hip hop is an attitude that says: “we can make it.”
Your first video and single for “Serious Fools” is the Star Wars-inspired “JEDI NIGHTS.” What did you think of the latest “Star Wars”?
CRAZY-T: Embarrassingly, I haven’t seen it yet. Despite having a song about Jedi on the album. We meant to go see it after recording one night but it was right after the release and we gave up assuming it would be too crowded or sold out. I think ISH saw it later on though.
ISH-ONE: I didn’t see it yet, but I love Lucas’s work.
When/where can people see you perform live?
CRAZY-T: We are currently getting together a tour. I will post dates on Twitter soon!