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  • Writer's picturekapil dwivedi

The unspoken love affair between hip-hop and anime

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

Hip Hop music has brought revolutions, fought oppression, influenced generations, witnessed countless transformations, and continues to be one of the most sought-after genres today.

Anime, the Japanese art of storytelling with animations is known for its depth and storylines with a subtle portrayal of deeper dimensions of life such as the real identity of ourselves, transcendental love, mortality, and juvenile curiosity.

How do these two completely different art forms that originated from completely different backgrounds interact? Do they share common elements? Does anime influence modern-day hip-hop culture? The answer to these questions is multifaceted and follows a long story. Here's my take on how anime has left its colors and impacted hip hop.

At first, both these art forms might not even appear closely related to each other. However, with a deeper dive, you will find astounding things that these art forms and cultures share. Both anime and hip hop provide a tinch of escapism. They question injustice, oppression, and social stigmas prevailing within societies with creativity. The depiction of strength and embodiment of the warrior within ourselves is common in both cultures.

With growing interest and several instances of referencing anime plots, characters, and themes by mainstream rappers the love affair between anime and hip hop seems to get stronger.

Hip Hop's Most Loved Anime Characters and Plots

Let's look at the love story between anime and hip hop by going through some of the most referenced anime storylines and characters. Amongst American rappers and mainstream hip hop culture Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Death Note, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Samurai Champloo, Attack on Titans, and Akira are some of the most referenced anime of all time.

Naruto in itself is an enthralling character that has managed to create a separate fanbase amongst anime lovers. The depiction of the protagonist as an outcast coupled with action in classic anime touch is what makes Naruto so popular amongst rappers. Right from Grammy-nominated Lil Uzi Vert, to Robb Banks there are several references to the show in modern-day hip-hop songs.

Akira is a classic dystopian Anime film that was released in the year 1988 and gained popularity amongst both anime and hip hop fans. The movie is an audio-visual masterpiece that is set in Neo-Tokyo and is packed with astounding action scenes and depictions of social issues like corruption and poverty. Kanye West, a living legend who is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, drew inspiration from Akira for his song's music video, stronger. This is one of the most notable influences of Anime on mainstream hip hop.

Death Note is another Anime that's been gaining a lot of popularity outside of the Anime circle. The appeal of Death Note comes with the superpower possessed by the main character 'Light Yagami' who can magically kill anybody just by writing their name in the notebook. The series is an absolute delight to watch with hidden messages and beautiful depictions of Shinigamis 'the Gods of Death' in Japanese culture. The show has been referenced by a bunch of famous rappers like Late Lil Peep and Denzel Curry.

Dragon Ball Z is without a doubt is one of the most popular anime series of all time, and I agree that its fame is deserved. The series revolves around a group of warriors which includes the hero Goku. DBZ has been mentioned and referenced in hip hop since the early 90s. Rappers like Childish Gambino, Denzel Curry, and Danny Brown have picked up references from the Anime and used them in their songs.

Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA says a black man living in America resembles Goku in today's time. He says the show teaches you how you get hold of your powers back naturally when you need them.

Attack on Titans is one of those anime shows that is relatively newer yet extremely popular amongst Anime lovers and casual anime viewers. The show is a perfect example that showcases the deep thinking abilities of Japanese story writers and their connection with the real world. The series is based on a dystopian world where humans have unknowingly lived in walls and protected from giants called Titans. Rapper Xavier Wulf is a big fan of the show and he showed his love for the show by writing a song called 'Wulf Titan'


Hip Hop has always known how to utilize creative elements from different cultures. Right from different forms of music to cinema to politics to sports. Hip hop and anime meld together to create a unique listening experience for the listener, especially if they're anime fans. The cultural exchange between Japanese anime and American hip hop has led to the development of amazing art and music. The love affair between anime and hip hop might create new genres of music or styles of storytelling that can potentially transform these art forms dramatically.

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