Meet Japanese Production Duo DFT and Their Film Full of Sword Fighting Yakuza
Tokyo comes to Atlanta in the work of these two leading ladies
Yakuza out for blood, gun and sword fights galore and two Japanese girls lip-synching flows straight out of Atlanta, laid over some serious beats. These are the key elements of Story To Tell, a short film that’s a wild cross-cultural cocktail concocted by Mimi and Vivi, the duo of Japanese beatsmiths that goes by the name of DFT: Don’t F**king Touch.
Vivi explains how they met each other in English school, where they formed a lifelong friendship. “We got to talk about a lot of things, like how to kiss a boyfriend actually. At that time, we never thought we would make music together in the future.” They further bonded over their shared love for hip hop once they got introduced to the genre. “Suddenly one day, cable TV has come to our house and MTV was there. When we turned it on, we were so into it.” At that time, Vivi was a club singer and Mimi was a DJ as a teenager, so they were already actively engaged with music. “Hip hop has always been beside us since then.”
They live in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward–widely considered to be the fashion hub of Japan, which according to them is currently also enjoying a huge battle rap boom in its streets. “We also have 3, or 4 big MC battle tournaments in the nightclubs once a year. A lot of young people join these freestyle battle cyphers, and there are so many TV commercials using rap.”
With rap being so prevalent in the streets, the DFT women have a keen ear turned towards them: “We’d love to dig stars from the street and produce them, which means a lot to Japanese hip hop culture.”
For their EP Story To Tell though, its four tracks featuring vocals were delivered by rappers from a different country, as DFT decided to collaborate with the relatively unknown American rappers K19 and Reno Rich. “We’ve always been searching for rappers who are skillful and have an amazing voice. We had a strong image about vocal bandwidth and characteristics that we wanted to put on our beats, and it was really difficult to find out in Japan.”
Poking around on the web, they came across a page where K19 and Reno were posting samples of their work. “We just felt like ‘This is it! We’ve got to collab with them!'”
“Nowadays, almost every artist and beat maker makes music by using the internet, we can collaborate even if we are apart,” Vivi explains. “We told them what we wanted them to rap on our beats and we got to talking and making our music through email and Skype.” But the duo wasn’t content by collaborating solely through the internet. “We were dying to go to Atlanta to meet them in person, and to make a recording there. We wanted to feel Atlanta.”
The result is an EP where the trap beats of Atlanta are run through the filter of Japanese music culture, to take that back to Georgia and have things come full circle there. The amalgamation is completed by the short film that accompanies it. Built around their music, it’s as much a product made possible by modern media and a global culture, as it is one that incorporates specific local cultures.
Hip hop knows no borders. And that’s a heck of a Story To Tell.