Tokyo 2016 is a 13 part series of photo & live reports from September, 2016, documenting a deep dive into the city’s various underground music scenes.

The trip’s first overnight event was a bit unusual one: @Underground DieselJapan30, as the name suggest was a special event celebrating the 30th anniversary of Diesel in Japan and served as a public afterparty to some daytime events, including fashion shows and such. So, it was kind of a mixture of a regular party and a fashion event and instead of sticking to a certain music style, it seemed that the organizers tried to get a couple of acts together that are considered cool nowadays to make the party more hip and trendy. And this all resulted in a very varied audience: your usual house-loving overnight party people, fashionistas, hip-hop fans and all that, mixed with some local celebrities like fashion icon & designer Alisa Ueno. But this kind of mixed lineup is actually not that uncommon in Tokyo, it often happens that organizers put together acts, that at first sight does not really fit together much… which can be a great thing, as it can make an event more interesting and diverse, and can open people’s ears to new music.

In this case it did not work out that well though, as there wasn’t a big crowd to begin with and it was obvious that most people were either there just to “be there” or came only for certain acts. And as a result the first two DJs, a girl called Yua and Yosa (who was wearing the best t-shirt ever and whom we already saw a couple of days earlier, doing a live act at the Tokyo Health Club show) were playing for a mostly empty room, while the bar was jam packed. Too bad, as they were pretty good… however, by the time DJ Daruma & Jommy took over, most people were at front of the DJ booth (including some screaming fangirls). No wonder, as Daruma is one of the biggest names in Japan’s party scene, ever since he rose to fame as one half of the electro house duo Dexpistols. The duo, that was a real game changer in the scene (along with some other acts, like 80kidz) disbanded a few years ago, but Daruma remained a key figure and he recently even joined one of the biggest entertainment agencies, LDH (more about them here) as part of their DJ and producer unit, PKCZ. However, fortunately even after this, he kept on playing at smaller club events as well and for these, he often teams up with Jommy, another former member of Roc Trax, the crew Daruma was also part of back in the days. And it really shows that they play together a lot, as their b2b set was smooth and cool, and their different styles – Jommy’s preference for old-school and more soulful, heavily disco influenced Chicago style house and Daruma’s love for extremely groovy electro house and fidget house tunes – matched perfectly.

After they finished, it was time for Yentown / kiLLA takeover, as the remaining three acts were all associated with those hip-hop crews, known mostly for their heavy trap beats. Yentown itself is a loose collective of MCs and producers (check this nice and most importantly, subtitled documentary about them), while kiLLa is a crew that was formed by some guys that were part of Yentown. (Actually shortly after this party, the kiLLa crew went on its separate way and now they have releases out on their own.) First up was another b2b DJ set, this time with Nabe (aka. Nabewalks) & Marzy and they started off with a bunch of bass heavy recent US hip-hop hits, driving the hip-hop guys in the audience crazy (there was a rather proper mosh pit at front of the booth), but then switched to more generic club music for some reason and the dancefloor became quiet again, until it was finally time for the kiLLa live act. It was almost 4 AM, so most of the people either left already or were just hanging around in the bar room, so the crowd mostly consisted of the group’s friends and most die hard fans, plus some bystanders. 40+ people maybe? But still, it was insanely intense and the kiLLa guys really put on a great show, so, it is no wonder they are turning into pretty huge underground favorites lately. On stage it was No Flower handling the beats, plus Kepha and kZm, the two that were running with Yentown previously, Arjuna and Blaise, the two black guys and also YesBøwy, who actually wasn’t doing much, he was there more like a showman I guess. They opened with Hollow, Kepha’s then latest track and proceeded with some other gems, including the amazing Psycho Trap, originally by kZM and Yentown’s Junkman (check the video of that and kZm & Kepha’s Poser below). After them it was time for Lisachris (who also makes tracks for the above mentioned crews… and also played at Tokyo Pop a few days earlier) to close the party for the couple of people still hangin’ around. Musically this was an amazingly strong event, but the lack of people was kinda killing the vibe… I wish I could check out the kiLLa guys at some better party, with a bigger crowd, but still it was great to get at least a taste of this part of the local hip-hop scene as well, along with the more light-hearted stuff at the THC event and the jazzy / boom bap kind a few days later.