A Short Look At Japanese-American Music Collaborations

29.4.12 ShaSha LaPerf 16 Comments

Indeed this is another music post!

A few weeks ago I found out that R&B/pop star Crystal Kay is going to be working on with the Far East Movement for a world wide release. Updated: A short version of the song has been loaded on YouTube: Where the Wild Things Are.

Japanese R&B/Pop star Crystal Kay meets Americ hip-hop/pop group Far East movement

I've already talked about both Crystal Kay and Far East Movement here. It's interesting because again, assuming that CK and FEM create a music video for their song, we'll see FEM using black (well in this case blasian) women in their videos. And CK has been hinting at making an international debut for the past 5 years, so let's see if this will give her an edge.

And that brings me to the point of this blog. The collaboration between Crystal Kay and the Far East Movement is actually one of the many connections Japanese and American artists have had. Many American rappers and R&B artists have worked with Japanese people, though the releases have only been for Japanese albums. So let's take a look at some of the collaborations that have happened over the past few years. I've already talked about the work that Boyz II Men has done with both DEEP and Atsushi From Exile, so let's take a look at some other artists that have gotten together.

The Teriyaki Boyz + Kanye West
The Teriyaki Boyz was a hip-hop group that was made up of Verbal from m-flo, Illmari and Ryo-Z from Rip Slyme, rapper Wise, and Nigo, founder of the A Bathing Ape clothing line. The group made an American debut when their song "Fast and Furious" appeared in that godawful Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift movie. Compared to many other Japanese hip-hop groups, Teriyaki Boys was heavy with their use of English as many of the member such as Wise and Verbal are English speakers. The group released three albums: Beef or Chicken (I'm serious that really is the title of their song), Serious Japanese, and a remix album titled Delicious Japanese. Their second heavy with collaborations from American artists. One of the notable songs is "I Still Love H.E.R." with features Kanye West. Kanye seemed like a pretty good match sine he seems to be a fan of Japanese culture. His "Stronger" video was a homage to the movie Akira and he employed artist Takashi Murakami to create illustrations for his Graduation album. "I Still Love Her" isn't the greatest Teriyaki Boyz song, but the video of them appearing on a "Fake" YouTube is kinda amusing.

The Teriyaki Boyz were also able to get some other big names to appear on their albums as well. The song "Zock On!" features Busta Rhymes and Pharell Willaims. And "Work That"--which is quite probably one of the laziest music video I've ever seen--features famous Twitter ranter and whiner Chris Brown with Pharrell making another appearance.

Full of Harmony + Teddy Riley
I was pretty excited when I heard that one of Japan's best R&B groups had teamed up with Teddy Riley. Teddy Riley is mostly known as a member of both Guy and Blackstreet and is a pretty accomplished songwriter. If you've listen to any music from Guy or Blacksteet, you can tell that this song screams Teddy Riley, especially when Teddy Riley himself breaks out the auto-tune in the video. Plus the members of Full of Harmony make a direct reference to Blackstreet's song, "Don't Leave Me."

Interestingly I have no idea who the black chick in the video is. Could never find out that info.This wasn't the first time that Full of Hamrony did a collaboration with an R&B artists. Jst ebfore they worked with Teddy Riley, they teamed up with Ne-Yo for the song "Brand New Day." Ne-Yo doesn' appear in the video on song for Brand New Day as he did most of the behind the scenes work. However there does appear to be a young black women in the video though there's little interaction between her and the singers.

AI + The Jacksons
I can't talk about collaborations without mentioned singer/rapper Her list includes: Snoop Dogg, K'Naan (yes I am aware that he's Somali-Canadian), Trey Songz, Boyz II Men and Chaka Khan. She also teamed up with blasian singer Judith Hill, who is mostly known as a backup singer for Michael Jackson and her appearance at his funeral. They made the song "For My Sister." The most random collaboration has to be with The Jacksons. Yes I'm talking about Jermaine, Marlon, those Jacksons. The connection was made to celebrate AI's ten years as an artist as well as the Jackson going back on tour. 

But not every collaboration has been as obvious. There are many Japanese artists that have worked with American producers and song-writers as well. Here are a few folks that have worked with Americans on a more behind-the-scenes basis:

Crystal Kay + Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are mostly known for being the men behind some of Janet Jackson's biggest work. So it seems like a good fit for Crystal Kay to work with them. They were behind the song "Kirakuni," which Crystal Kay sings in English. I'm actually not sure of how I feel about this one. The song and video screams Janet Jackson to me. Apparently Crystal Kay wanted this to be more like Janet since she is a huge fan and Janet is an influence on her music. But I feel like CK gets a little lost with everything going on here. 

Utada Hikaru + Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Utada Hikaru can give AI a run for her money when it comes to the amount of people she's collaborated with. However hers has been more behind the scenes as well. She's worked with The Neptunes, Timbaland, DarkChild and stepped outside of Americans to work with Stargate. One of her earliest collaborations was with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for the song "Wait and See~Risk." Compared to the CK collaboration with the men, this one has a much strong Utada Hikaru feel to it.

Hirai Ken + Babyface
When Hirai Ken is in full R&B mode, his style is probably similar to Eric Benet or Joe or Babyface. So it seemed like a good idea to have Ken and Babyface work together for Ken's single "Missin You." the song is a pretty good blend of style from the two artists. In the same single, Ken also did a cover of Babyface's "When Can I See You Again." I don't know what the fuck is going on in this video though, Ken's videos are always random.

平井堅 - missing you by Kobukuro

These are just a few of the collaborations out there. Here's super short list of some other little known America-Japanese collaborations:

Shota Shimizu and Joe - "Be With You"Shota Shimizu is a more recent R&B/pop/ballad artist who got the opportunity to work with R&B crooner Joe. Shota also appeared on the remix of Joe's song "Roll Wit Me."

MISIA and Erykah Badu - "Akai Inochi"
This was an album track on MISIA's Mars and Roses album. Erykah Badu doesn't really do much in the songs outside of providing some minor back up vocals. Erykah later did a cover of one of MISIA's most popular songs, "Everything."

CHEMISTRY and John Legend - "Tookage"
This was an interesting case because John Legend's participation for this song was solely playing the piano you hear in the music. LOL but John Legend's name was all over the single release, leading people to think he had a much larger role in the song. Of course it's a Chemistry song so I love it anyway!

Kubota Toshi and Angie Stone - "Hold Me Down"
This song actually appeared on Kubota Toshi's second American album titled Time to Share. It's a smooth R&B song that makes me sad that Toshi didn't get the popularity her deserves. That album also features a collaboration with rapper Mos Def as well.

Verbal and Nicki Minaj - "Change Change"
This collaboration is a bit more dubious than some of the other ones listed. Verbal--who is probably the king of Japanese collaborations release a solo album last year titled VISIONAIR and featured Lil Wayne, Drake and of course Nick Minaj. Unfortunately the collaborations were marred with accusations of the American artists not actually appearing on the albums or using rhymes that had been recorded much earlier for different songs. Verbal has insists the collabs happened and seeing as he did get to work with some big names as a member of the Teriyaki Boyz, the idea of him working with Lil Wayne and Drake isn't that far fetched.

Koda Kumi and Omarion - "Slow"
The is one of the later collaborations, happening just earlier this year. While Omarion's popularity may have waned a bit in the US, he still has a pretty large following in Japan. Koda Kumi often toes the line between pop and R&B and had already worked with Fergie as well as T-Pain.

I'm sure there are a few collaborations that I missed, but this is a start. I'm looking forward to hearing what CK and FEM bring out this year and I'm hoping to see more collaborations between American and Japanese artists soon!


  1. I agree that Kirakuni has a Janet Jackson influence but then what is CK's style? I'm really saying this in a genuine way. As a fan of her I don't really know. Some say she's a RnB singer, others say she's always been jpop.
    I hope she'll get some attention from other (more) popular American rappers/producers this year. And hopefully the song Where the Wild Things Are will be good or/and have a MV.

    As a side note, CK did collaborate with Kirakuni's producers on 2 other tracks ("I Can't Wait" and "It's A Crime").

    An old collaboration...Christina Milian and S-Word (a Japanese rapper): http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr0ww_s-word-ft-christina-milian-the-answ_music?search_algo=1

    Oh and I almost forgot:

    Lecca feat Shaggy - Target: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7wgfPMnsn0 (she usually raps better IMO)
    Pushim feat Luciano - As One: http://www.wat.tv/video/pushim-as-one-featuring-luciano-xdqh_2ey4d_.html
    (Oh yeah, he's not American lol Shaggy is kinda both as a singer)

    1. Crystal Kay is a mix of both pop and R&B. Some songs she has are standard R&B fare (http://youtu.be/e4er1R3EIEc) and other times it's more on the pop side (http://youtu.be/IMpoxJJQVFo). In recent years she's fallen under the same ladder as Hirai Ken or Shota Shimizu: her more pop/ballads songs are released as singles because they sell better, but you'll find some R&B on her albums.

    2. Yeah, I know, I've listened to all her albums. It wasn't really a question of style but about her identity as an artist (her signature in those said genres). It doesn't bother me though, as long as she keeps doing good songs. Now she's doing occasionally electro/dance stuff too. I know she likes pretty much anything that sounds good and I appreciate her open-ness.

    3. Gotcha! I think she would be considered both depending on who you're talking to. In Japan I think CK is still considered J-pop because that's what they use to refer to Japanese artists period; "R&B" is often used for Western artists. So if you went into say HMV or Tower Records in Japan, you probably won't find "J-R&B" sections (though I think some stores do have a "J-hip-hop" or "J-reggae" section). People like CK or MISIA or Full or Harmony would be in the J-pop section, while Ne-Yo, Usher, or Beyonce would be in the R&B section. And Japan doesn't have domestic R&B charts (Like how we have the Billboard R&B chart) so there aren't artists that can show up on that list as such.

      I think sometimes Japanese artists are mention as actually R&B artists, but I think few artists are openly marketed as R&B artists (and I mean these artists have gotten big promotion from their companies). Only Chemistry (after ASAYAN), MISIA, Kubota Toshi, Shota Shimizu, and DOUBLE come to mind.

      Does that make sense? Sorry have some trouble explaining.

    4. Yes, it makes sense, thanks for explaining, I didn't know that. That is interesting, the jpop mixed category. Those artists are often supposed to do a few pop songs now that I think of it, jpop sells a lot more than RnB.

  2. Melody

    Aki-la ft. Snoop Dogg - Freak Da Club

    AI ft. Chaka Khan - Through the Fire

  3. Oops, sorry it's Bloodshy & Avant who produced It's A Crime. But Jam and Lewis did produce Itoshiihito.

  4. @ Anonymous: Thank you!! Lol I was trying to remember the name of this girl! (the feat with Snoop) I wonder what she's doing now...I haven't been able to follow her ever since I saw that video.

  5. Melody

    @ Myra - Your welcome! I haven't been able to find anything on her either for awhile now.

  6. Just now I randomly found another music video by her.

    Aki-la - New G Nation

  7. I'm liking the concept already.

    Some people compare Kay to Beyonce. She may idolize and mimic Janet,but I think that she can do well by herself. I'm glad that she is hooking up with FAM.Maybe she can get more exposure from them and that someone will pick her up from there.

  8. @ Melody: thanks again for the links :) I checked her on cdjapan (and on other music sites) today and it says that she hasn't released anything since 2003 :(

  9. Hey everyone thanks for the other songs! Some of them I knew about but completely forgot about until they were mentioned here. And some others I didn't even know existed! I think what sucks is that the majority of these collaborations make it to the states. Even when Japanese artists appear on an American artists album, it's usually just for the Japanese release. I wish they would bring these song over here so that it can bring some exposure to a lot of the Japanese artists.

  10. I agree, they should do something with those songs...overseas. Not a US debut but just promoting it.

  11. I know this blog is about a bunch of other collabs, but honestly all I can think about are: CRYSTAL KAY & FAR EAST MOVEMENT! I didn't know they did any collabs, and I LOVE both of them!

    I think I'm especially partial to Crystal Kay because she's half Korean (even though she doesn't speak it and lives and works in Japan LOL) just like me.

    Wow, I'm so excited~

    - Esther

  12. I forgot to mention Sean Paul's Dream Girl remix version featuring lecca!


    @ Esther Cotton: FM ft CK's PV is coming! Stay tuned! :D