This article examines the overlooked phenomenon of how black British grime music artists intentionally and selectively remix Japanese pop cultural artifacts to carve out a hybrid cultural space that gives voice to their urban realities and articulates counterhegemonic black subjectivities. From the early 2000s, at the same time as state-centered discourses of ‘Cool Japan’ emerged to explain the global rise of Japanese pop culture, grime artists were already on their own terms sampling Japanese video games and anime to articulate emergent feelings of ‘coldness’, which reflects their sense of alienation on the margins of British society. The author introduces ‘Cold Japan’ as the other Cool Japan, and a way of understanding this fundamentally intertwined mode of cultural hybridity and being that forms the essence of black Britain’s grime. This article uses the cyborg figure to disclose how grime artists transform Cold Japan into a site of countercultural resistance to subvert their oppression by self-generating and embodying transgressive posthuman identities. Examining how selected ‘cold’ Japanese pop cultural elements and technologies entangle with urban black life and identity formation in 21st century Britain, the article contributes to discussions on the impact of transnational flows of Japanese pop culture and cultural hybridization.Abstract
Rather than pick out references within the music, Warren points to the similarities of “coldness” of the Black working class, living on the periphery of society:
Grime artists are not only drawn to the familiarity of Japanese pop cultural artifacts as the ‘stuff’ of their surroundings, which became fused with their lives and feelings of coldness. Japanese pop cultural content also operates as ‘fantasy-ware: goods that inspire an imaginary space at once foreign and familiar’, as Anne Allison (2006, 277) puts it. The attraction, therefore, also lies in the very imagined spatial and temporal distance of ‘Japan’ that can, to borrow the words of Robin Kelley (2003, 11), take them ‘to another place…a different way of seeing, perhaps a different way of feeling’, where, as Deborah Gould would suggest, ‘squelched desires’ or previously unimaginable new ones can enter into the realm of existence and articulation (quoted in Fawaz 2016, 29).