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After years of toiling in the underground and a string of releases on tiny independent labels, rock-rap group Asian2 finally broke into the Japanese mainstream in 2006 with the catchy single "Tooku." The five-piece is usually described in their home country as a "mixture" band in the vein of Ketsumeishi and Orange Range, two of Japan's biggest-selling acts of the mid-2000s. Like those two bands, Asian2 combines catchy, feel-good rhymes with a generally positive message and a variety of musical influences, including hip-hop and rock.
The seeds of Asian2 were sown when MC Tatsu met drummer Hideo at junior high school in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and the two decided to form a band. By 1999, they had poached guitarist Hisato and bassist Shoji from other local acts (second MC Twenty "20" completes the lineup) and found kindred spirits in one of the original "mixture" bands, SOUL-D, who played a show in Matsumoto the same year and invited Asian2 to play at their own "Rock Box" event.
In 2001, Asian2's first mini-album was released in the group's hometown and sold a respectable 2,000 copies. The band's profile was raised another notch with the release the following year of the single "Honey the Mountain," which became the most requested track nationwide on the Usen "popular ranking" charts. Asian2 embarked on their first Japanese tour in 2003 to promote the single "Brazil," after which Hisato left the band citing musical differences to be replaced by Nishi. Within a year Nishi, too, would be on his way out of the band, replaced by new guitarist Kensuke. Asian2 continued to get nods of approval from their peers, including the "hip-pop" duo Def Tech — the two groups shared a stage at a live show in Tokyo in 2004. They also provided the ending song — a collaboration with Arisa Mizuki — to the Kenji Sonoda film Tobi Ga Kururi To. Asian2 made their "major" debut (Avex Trax is actually an independent label, albeit one of the biggest indies in the world) in 2006 with the single "Asian Vibration," the video was directed by the band's own Twenty "20." But it was the infectious follow-up "Tooku" that secured the band widespread radio and television airplay, aided by three different commercial tie-ins (on adverts for Subaru, Fuji Cameras and Sapporo beer) that guaranteed the band maximum exposure. The accompanying full-length debut album, the curiously titled Five Men l'mant, was released at the end of 2006, and was a fusion of summery hip-hop in the vein of Ketsumeishi and harder, Red Hot Chili Peppers-style rock-rap.
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