Rising rapper throws himself around...and sings robot ballads

The DJ spinning Nirvana’s “Rape Me” before the show got underway served as a clue to just how KOHH’s early afternoon set on the White Stage was going to open. The rising Tokyo rapper — who has carved out space on top of the Japanese rap scene and also experienced a smattering of viral success — emerged and immediately went full rock star, screaming into the microphone as he threw himself around the stage. It was a deliberately confrontational move, KOHH shredding his throat over music that wasn’t itself particularly compelling, but done with such vigor as to become compelling. It was KOHH doing his interpretation of what “rock” might be.

After that intro, though, he swerved back to the material that has turned him into a Japanese hip-hop name to know. Spitting over instrumentals featuring the pressurized beat defining contemporary rap coming out of Atlanta, KOHH delivered high-energy songs featuring choruses designed to be just as effective hashtags as hooks. He let the titular center of “Dirt Boys” hang out with minimal backing sounds, while the pop-leaning”Hikouki” soared on its bubbly synth notes. At his worst, KOHH feels like an off-brand rendering of American hip-hop…basically, whenever he raps about sex, he’s presenting an image of rap with about zero percent nuance…but oftentimes he manages to work in a new perspective to his music, as was often the case at the White Stage.

Though, in a twist anyone who bailed after the first half might find shocking, the backend of his set featured extended Auto-tune soaked ballads, Kanye-indebted sad-boy anthems that found the once animated KOHH now clutching onto the stage like gravity was going to suck him away. It was every bit as confrontational as the opening rock stretch, though with slightly less energy. But then again, it underlined the best part of watching KOHH…you never knew where he would turn next.

Text by Patrick St. Michel Posted on 2016.7.22 15:32