The hipsters are gonna be all over this one. Japanese baile funk/hyphy female MC Tigarah. You might have already heard her on a commercial for some online music service and the add for Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (EDIT: I'm not so sure this is her now, and I haven't been able to independently confirm or deny. I'm thinking it's a pretty wiley move by Nigo to capitalize on her rapidly growing popularity on the Internet). I’m really not into that sound, which I got over when J.J. Fad was doing it. However, some people are really getting into her. So, in about a year, when the Voice is doing a piece on her, you can say, with great jaded detachment, “I heard about her last year,” kinda like I did when someone brought her to my attention, heh.
Once people start to hear about her, invariably people will make this comment, “she sounds like Gwen Stefani.” Say it again. Go ahead, SAY IT AGAIN <said in Sam Jackson decibel level shout>. I suppose they are basing this on hearing Stefani’s last solo record, you know the one that was supposedly “inspired” by Harajuku street culture, and probably simply assuming she’s Tigarah is ripping off “Hollaback Girl.” Please don’t be so intellectually lazy. It is embarrassing. I kind of understand, making comparisons is the easiest shortcut when reviewing something, and if executed properly, one can show their wit and pop culture history knowledge at the same time.
Using M.I.A. as a reference point is just as bad, but because no one really knows her outside of the hipster dipset . . . and I suppose Tigarah does hold M.I.A. up as an influence, if not in style, in marketing.
Back the the artist at hand. She's another interesting case study in the "I want to make it big in the states" Japanese musician syndrome. Is it a desire for a bigger audience? Did someone tell her this would be a good idea? I don't know. I'm not saying wanting to be famous world wide is a bad thing, I just wonder why the big rush to be big in the states if it isn't money or fame? And thus the question invariably arises, will she make it? Clearly she's no worse than most of the female MCs out there. She has a style, speaks English well enough. The Pinkerton/hipster wanna-be critics are already getting their willies out over her. A female Japanese rap artist fits in well with the Western press' obsession with Japanese women, especially those who appear to be bucking "Japanese traditions."
I'd be surprised if she sells anything, were she to get a record deal in the states (considering that several American rags have already done stories on her and she doesn't even have a full length album out yet, suggests that she will. And it is also a testament to the power of My Space). If she doesn't sell, it wont be because she's so awful, but because people already have their knives out. Even those people sympathetic to Japanese pop music are already labeling her a copycat and such. Yeah, I know, stupid is as stupid does, but stupid made P Diddy a whole lot of money.
She does have one thing working for her, she's female and Japanese. Anyone remember when Toshi Kubota tried (twice) to start a career in the states? I didn't think so. Maybe he got some play on CNN International News' entertainment section, but that's about it (actually, his video ran on BET, but you don't remember that either, do you?) He sings very well, and his album was full of finely crafted, if a bit dull, neo-soul-ish songs. The music press didn't blink. Well, perhaps if he had had My Space back then.
Hikaru Utada didn't need My Space. When a couple of years ago she made her first serious attempt at cracking the US market, she was a well known quantity, especially among the growing network of J-Pop fans in the states. Probably nearly every kid with a copy of Naruto bought, or at least listened to the record. And, as part of the hipster media I was one of the first to do a review of the record. She had a video, corny as it was, on MTV. Outside of the aforementioned, few others cared.
I suppose there were many reasons why the record didn't take off; a somewhat experimental record without a unifying identity, weak publicity from Island records, an audience predisposed to think Asian people sound funny singing (Will Hung). I suspect, though that perhaps there's no underlying reasons to be discovered. Perhaps it was just that Kubota, Hikaru, and Tigarah are being treated just like any other first time recording artist when it comes to starting a career in America. Your music is what matters.