Welcome to Pass the Aux, where KQED Arts & Culture brings you our favorite new tracks by Bay Area artists. Check out past entries and submit a song for future coverage.
Of all the music genres associated with the Bay Area, Japanese "city pop" might not be one that comes to mind for most. Yet for Oakland rapper Seiji Oda, the internet-influenced style was the driving inspiration for his latest single, “ANRI (city pop 003).”
“The reason I started including [the city pop label] in my music was because I got into it and I loved it, and I wanted to share that with others,” he says. “City pop sounds to me like a combination of Bay slaps and tempo with an anime vibe.”
The emerging artist released his newest track — which pays homage to Anri, a Japanese vocalist whom he credits with introducing him to the genre — on Lunar New Year. Oda says he chose the day of Asian American celebration because it represents the heritage and traditions that have allowed him to become the artist he is today.
“It’s a way for me to show my appreciation for the culture, really,” he says. “Without that, I don’t have shit.”
Having grown up reading manga and watching animes like Samurai Champloo — famous for its Nujuabes-produced score — Oda makes music with a soundscape that is at once familiar and fresh. His exposure to a variety of influences and flavors emerges naturally on the upbeat single, with references that range from Vietnamese sandwiches to Japanese singers from the '80s: “Yeah I need my bread, baby, bánh mì, sliding through Japantown slappin’ Anri.”
Filmed in San Francisco’s Japantown, the video features Oda rocking an A’s dad hat while wandering around clothing shops like Chameleon Vintage, dapping up his folks and rap-singing about childhood summers, family and remaining true to his roots: “I always do my own thing I never assimilate… I’m from the soil so you know I gotta innovate.”
The catchy hook, melodic delivery and hints of Japanese pop mixed with sprinkles of Bay Area funk are trademark textures for Oda, whose recent projects include lofi // HYPHY. Oda credits local influences like P-Lo, HBK’s Azure, Hokage Simon and Future James as multi-talented artists who are shaping the scene.
“Asian Americans aren’t always seen as creative people. But it’s important for us to see we are setting that example and being outside the box and just doing what we want to do,” he says. “I’m also not trying to be anything other than myself. I’m just showing the regular-ness of my life.”
Seiji Oda’s EP ‘wading in shallow water’ is available now. You can also catch him giving ramen tutorials on YouTube. For information about upcoming Lunar New Year events and resources for addressing anti-Asian hate, visit the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice.