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In our Tokyo community we have created a culture of love, regardless of occupation, gender, or age. Passing the baton from those who care to others who also care, “DAYZ AFTER TOMORROW” is an homage project to a certain TV program. The first memorable guest is Yuki Abe of HYPEBEAST JAPAN. Some of you may be familiar with his YouTube, which he does with Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi, and his Instagram, where many key industry people appear. But he also digs deep into the key mysteries that frequently appear in the fashion world.

To Yuki Abe from Masafumi Watanab MESSAGE

My first impression when I didn’t know where you were from or what you were doing, was that you were really mysterious. But you were friendly and told me a lot of interesting stuff from the media point of view that I really learned a lot from. You were a guy that I wanted to know more about and that’s why I recommended you to the first person.

To Masafumi Watanabe from Yuki Abe MESSAGE

Going to eat the crab together at near year and so on, my great mentor Bebetan has always taken care of me both personally and professionally. I am so grateful to have been recommended by him. While I am not aware of it, there seem to be many mysteries surrounding me. I hope that this project helps you understand me a little better. (Laugh)

Chatting with Mr. Motofumi “POGGY” Kogi who came to visit DAYZ.

―――Did you like fashion right from the start?

Abe:I think I was a guy that liked fashion. I became interested when sneakers became popular in the 90s, and I was in my first year of junior high school at the time. If I look back now that was the start for me. It was the dawn of the URAHARA culture, but they were already trendy. In my case, I really loved the NBA and SLAM DUNK, from basketball shoes to sneakers generally, and then after that I think my interest shifted to fashion. I guess I was just an ordinary student during high school. That was the golden age of hip hop and mixture rock, which I really liked. Me and all my friends were all listening to that kind of stuff. It's often surprising, but I've been doing hip-hop for a long time, and when people ask me what my roots are, I can't leave out music.

―――Did that lead you to pursue a career in music after graduating from high school?

Abe:No, actually I went to a 4-year university in the city. I started music in the latter part of high school. Right about then I started hearing the word “Takuroku” and started doing that myself.

―――“Takuroku”? What is that?

Abe:That is like self-recording in your own home, until then to make music you would need to go to a recording studio to make music and so the barriers were quite high. With the evolution of home recording software, it was possible to record at home, it got to the stage that it was normal to make music at home on your computer. Nowadays that goes without saying but in those days it was groundbreaking. I was also attracted to the hip-hop way and spirituality of being able to play music even if you can't play an instrument or sing. I just wanted to try a lot of different things at first, isn’t that what being young is all about? And for me it was the music. But even so, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, so after graduation I got a regular job.

――― I can’t imagine that at all!

Abe:When I made an album, I think it was just in time to have still been sold with CDs and records, then with the technology evolving, easy to understand physical products that could make money were becoming less and less sellable. For those working in Indie Music they were already looking at unemployment. Those working in indie music were looking at dire straits, the number of gigs just wasn’t frequent enough to keep them in work.

―――Did you produce and sell CDs?

Abe:Yeah, I did. I think I produced about 5-6 albums. Yeah, I remember, he he. While I was in uni I took some time off and went to Melbourne in Australia to study abroad, and that was when I really got super serious about doing music. A mate from over there had a contract with an American label, while they were touring, I was with them doing the opening act, and in Melbourne I was performing in clubs and bars a couple of times a week. From there, when I got back to Japan, I started performing solo, for some reason I often got noticed overseas, often over in America, I even put out an album on an American Indie label. I was probably the first Japanese rapper to tour America, I think. I also went to Europe 3 times. I was centered in France but also went to Germany, Switzerland, Spain… It’s all a bit of a blur now, being more than 10 years ago. It wasn’t that big of a deal. Even now you can hear my sounds on Spotify, though.

―――You mean you were doing it professionally?

Abe:To be honest, the professionals are all around me, but I wouldn’t presume to say I was a pro myself. I think in my 10-year career my biggest selling single reached maybe 18 on the Oricon charts. That was my level… All the while I was also working in IT though, and just doing my music on the side. I did a lot of collaborations with different people, once all the projects were over and the timing was right, I felt it was time to quit.

―――Wrap it up when you’ve done everything you set out to do right? Or when you get the feeling that it is done right?

Abe:Yeah, that’s right. It wasn’t like a big retirement announcement or anything, kind of a waning of my interest, I had done everything that I wanted to, so I wasn’t so motivated, I think. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any regrets but, I had fulfilled the dreams I had when I first set out, and I think that I didn’t do too bad.

―――It's a tough experience when you're quite young, but a great experience none the less, yeah?

Abe:Objectively, I am not really a regular guy right! I was serious about music up until about 30, then I thought a lot about what to do and tried different things when that disappeared. That was when I realized that I like writing. Maybe it is like my experience writing lyrics is still with me today. Afterall there was a time when as a basketball lover I was writing columns for the official NBA website.

―――When was it that you entered the fashion industry?

Abe:I helped launch a certain American fashion medium in Japan, and Hypebeast was like a contributor at first, writing several articles a week as a side hustle, and at some point, it was like, why not just do this fulltime. I feel like was a bit lost for 3-4 years there, there were a lot of twists and turns. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had been in the fashion industry or the media from the beginning. But that might have been tough, it was probably better that I came in from the outfield, so to speak.

―――With the advent of SNS, we have infinite information. What do you think today’s media ought to be?

Abe:I may be misunderstood but, honestly, I don’t think we are in the age of media now. The media picks up information sent out on SNS and is simply retransmitting it. In that sense, I think that one important thing for us is curation. Putting out information that is going to be beneficial to those who are reading it. If you have 10 things then you don’t just blindly follow all of them, you need to have an aesthetic eye to determine the contents and narrow it down. I also always thinking about supporting the newer generation. I think that’s one of Hypebeast’s origins, I also like the idea of that. And so, if we lose that then I feel that the significance of the medium’s existence will be lessened. But then again, if you jump onto something new, that contradicts what I said earlier, so we do need to be a little cautious about that. It’s like to follow or not to follow.

At a store related to HYPEGOLF, Mr. Yosuke Sasagawa and the store that opened in Daikanyama last year.

――― It looks like that from here. I have this image of you liking Hype-like stuff. Maybe it’s because work is like that, but I recognize it is your character to like new things.

Abe:I think I like new things. But it’s not liking new things, its more I enjoy finding them, I get excited by a new movement? But I think I tended to be like that more when I was younger. As you get older it isn’t that you don’t like new things, it is that you have more knowledge and so are more discerning and so the bar is raised. Sometimes I feel old. And I say, “I used to like these brands!”. Nowadays I can’t say that.

―――It's only natural that values change as our experience increases with age. Don't you think of yourself as a Hypebeast?

Abe:I think it was more like that when I was on the outside. But after becoming part of it and seeing so many things like that, it is like my senses have become numb, maybe you absorb too much and cannot digest it completely. Of course, it is a business, and it is a great industry for human relations, so I get to experience stuff that other regular people don’t. When you say “Fashion”, of course design and stuff is important but more than that you need a backbone. For example, if someone who is not a skater does a skating brand then it won’t be convincing, right? Let’s do Supreme, Let’s do Palace, even if it is commercially successful, at the very least you can feel that they are staying faithful to their true roots. Of course, there are times when I think we borrow from other cultures, but I do think respect is needed. If you are just appropriating culture, then the person seeing it will recognize that immediately. And that’s why I want to be looking at it and be able to support the genuine thing. As for the somewhat influential media, I want to give the people who read it the nourishment they deserve. I don’t want people to get fat from unneeded nourishment.

―――It is precisely because of culture that we can create a common language, right! After all the love of Street is strong, isn’t it? I wasn’t even in the field, was I? Even for those in the realm, why is the love of Street so deep?

Abe:I don’t mean to say I am from the street but like I was saying before, because I did Hip Hop for a long time, Hip Hop started on the street didn’t it. Love of the street, well you know my entrance wasn’t in such an orthodox fashion, so I guess I want to preserve my roots. It’s not that cool, and I haven’t thought about it all that much. Everything is most interesting when it’s fresh, so when street brand approaches and methods are gradually generalized, all that is left are the bare bones, there is no real substance. If you keep scraping away like that then you are going to get the faddist and those who are serious about it lumped in together. I think that is a waste and it hinders the development of the culture.

―――Especially as a media person, even if you don’t like it, you can see it, right?

Abe:That may be the case.

―――I think that balls are flying from all directions. Sometimes don’t you want to avoid them?

Abe:Sometimes you do want to dodge them. It is fun to meet with people, I am happy, but on the weekend I tend to try to avoid people because of that.

―――Given that writing is important to you as your starting point, what do you think is the power of writing and lyrics?

Abe:The power of words? That’s a difficult one. This may not be the answer you are looking for but, people nowadays don’t really read stuff properly, do they? That’s why I think that it’s so difficult to convey our ideas. It’s all about how to really convey your thoughts. When I was writing lyrics, I thought the more difficult they were the better, because it’s my creation, so I could take responsibility for it myself. That is the type of Rap that I like. That being said, I was often frustrated by not being able to convey my message. Because if you can’t get what you want to say across then there isn’t any meaning to it, I try to think of how to get the underlying message across without it being lost. To get the most power out of my lyrics, I try to keep making it easier to understand in mind. Especially when writing from a media standpoint.