For the past few months I’ve had his two-part mixtape Season of Letters / Season of Bullet on repeat. Previous to that, I’d been hooked on Season of Love/Season of Fever. I’ve blogged, tweeted, recommended and reposted his music on every one of our social media accounts ad nauseam. His name is MOMENT and he’s one of the realest independent artists out of Japan. The trilingual emcee has no problem with making you feel his words and letting you into his soul as he raps fluidly in English, Japanese and his mother tongue Korean.
Last week, I reviewed his debut album MOMENTS and was blown away by the depth of his words. For someone so young, there is so much wisdom and insight in his music that it’s inspiring and a strong motivation; I had to know just a little more about him and his music.Â To be honest, I was quite intimidated to interview him as there’s really no info online for me to gauge his personality or even willingness to be sought out. However, I’m glad I reached out to him because it turns out that he’s just as cool as his aka “Swag Cat” suggests. Check out my interview with him below and judge for yourself. And while you’re at it, make sure you download his latest mixtape and purchase his new album from the links below!
Tiffny: Firstly I want to say thank you for doing this interview with me! Please introduce yourself to our readers!
MOMENT: Hello. My name is MOMENT. Iâ€™m an artist whoâ€™s making music in Osaka, Japan.
Where does “Swag Cat” come from? Is it a play on slang or do you just really like cats?
I always felt a need to change or add something up to my original name because â€˜MOMENTâ€™ itself was just too common. Of course itâ€™s part of Hip Hop culture to refer someone â€˜dawgâ€™ or â€˜catâ€™, but itâ€™s more of my personal love for cats. I think Iâ€™m more like a â€˜dog typeâ€™ person â€“ dependent, obeying and one dimensional. And I think great artists are like cats â€“ independent, majestic and self loving. By the time I was considering this I thought my rap needed little bit of self-confidence, so I put â€˜swagâ€™ like some sort of bold statement. Therefore, â€˜Swag Catâ€™.
I only speak a little Japanese (and Korean) but I can still tell that your lyrics are raw. After reading the translated version, my suspicions have been confirmed, so I guess my next question to you is: why are you so dope?
Really? ã…‹ã…‹ã…‹ lol Thank you for being nice. If Iâ€™m anyway near to â€˜dopeâ€™, thatâ€™s probably because I try to keep things down to earth. I want [my lyrics] to get to listenersâ€™ stomachs, brains and chests, not just lingering within their mouths like some treats or snacks.
I’m trying to remember the first song of yours I heard and I think it was on a track from your mixtape Joon Is Not My Name, specifically Walk Around The World with Julian Nagano, who is a friend of CrayonBeats. How did you guys link up?
When I started â€“ more like picked up by the people- there were many talented people doing music based on the
internet and Julian was one of them. I donâ€™t remember the title but Julian wanted me to get on his song so he contacted me. I wish I can meet him one day but Europe is way too far from here lol
Taking it back, how’d you get inspired to hip hop? I know it’s a pretty generic question but I really wanna know who influenced you back then and who influences you now?
I can say it was Common, Kanye West, and later on Drunken Tiger and Epik High. I think they established my listening habits and encouraged me to write something of my own. Nowadays I think Iâ€™m influenced by Kendrick,
J.Cole and Big KRIT, but not majorly. Because when I came back to Japan after my military service at Korean army, my biggest motivation was not about â€˜Oh I wanna make music like theirsâ€™ anymore. Of course I freaking love them for their down to earth attitudes, but these days I think Iâ€™m more influenced by non-musical figures.
You have a lot of mixtapes out there, but MOMENTS is your first album. How’s it feel seeing the reactions to your first official release?
To be honest there are not many â€˜reactionsâ€™ that I can see lol No single interview offer or decent reviews at all (expect yours). I may sound conceited but I feel my album doesnâ€™t get the coverage it deserves because Japanese Hip Hop media (outlets) are fucked up. My motto is â€˜You fuck with system, I fuck with peopleâ€™, so fuck them.
What I can tell you is that though the number of reaction is relatively small, every person who ever showed their perception on my music told me some deep shit. None of them was like â€˜Oh I liked your musicâ€™. They wanted to discuss about the topics I rapped and they wanted to tell me their experience to me.
This is true â€“ I wonâ€™t say his name but I had a chance to do a gig with a relatively famous rapper. No disrespect, but after his performance I couldnâ€™t see people approaching to him and having a conversation more than â€˜youâ€™re awesomeâ€™ and taking instagrams. My fans got to me and we talked for hours and hours and some of them even got into debate on their own. With these kind of fans I feel strong, special bond. They may not be the coolest guys or prom queens of the night, but theyâ€™re gonna fuck with my music even after gigs or parties. They embrace my music within their lives. I feel privileged for that.
In your music you talk about a lot of subjects that can be considered taboo for rappers to support or bring to the forefront such as LGBTQ rights, racism and even more personal things like depression. Have you lost any support for being so outspoken?
Not at all. I personally think 90% of my supporters love me because I talk about those topics lol. I donâ€™t think they fuck with me because I got â€˜dope skillsâ€™ or â€˜swagâ€™.
To be 100% honest with you, I think Japanese Hip Hop is locked up within its bubble â€“ the bubble called â€˜the image of Hip Hopâ€™. You can say same thing with US Hip Hop locked up with its graphic portraits of sex, violence and materialism, but the major difference between US and Japan is that in Japan, itâ€™s not criticized. Iâ€™m not saying everyone, but so many artists lack self awareness in this game.
Iâ€™ve met someone who called my music â€˜not Hip Hopâ€™ because of the topics I deal with. Iâ€™m fine with that. Iâ€™m not a Hip Hop purest and I donâ€™t want to claim my music is Hip Hop. Like UK rock started from American blues influence but ended up as its own thing, if my music has a potential to reach out to the people with its originality, I donâ€™t need a name tag of Hip Hop. Iâ€™m gonna influence people like no Hip Hop artists have ever done. Iâ€™m gonna piss someone off, make people think, and help them to be true to themselves.
Speaking of personal taboo subjects, you talk about feeling depressed on LIMBO (track 5 of MOMENTS). Was it a difficult decision to put such a personal experience on the album?
It wasnâ€™t. The only problem was that â€˜not many rappers do thisâ€™. There are shit ton of Japanese rappers and artists talking about â€˜Hopeâ€™ or â€˜Dreamâ€™ and shit. Itâ€™s almost like they need them as anesthetics. Iâ€™m perfectly cool with drugs or substance use but when the whole culture deceives itself and tries not to talk about problems, it is not healthy. Sometimes you have to see whatâ€™s causing your pain. So I talked about it.
Fortunately, I think my identity as a foreigner allows me to discover different topics. No matter how hard I cry out â€˜Iâ€™m no different from youâ€™, at the end of the day they still want something different from me.
Â It’s usually independent/underground rappers such as yourself who have no apprehensions speaking so strongly. Why do you think mainstream artists don’t rap this way more often and what would you tell them if you had the chance?
Cuz it sells better that way. I got no problems with that. They are there to be loved and to be consumed. After all you canâ€™t expect a â€˜George Bush doesnâ€™t care about black peopleâ€™ moment from every mainstream artist. My problem is rather with underground artists. You say itâ€™s usually underground rappers who have no apprehensions speaking strongly, but I donâ€™t see many of them (in Japan). Who is shouting fuck people in suits? Fuck Abe and fuck Jimintou? Fuck you racists? Fuck you expecting me to live as you want? Arenâ€™t they just doing somewhat safe?
Maybe itâ€™s a cultural thing. Japanese culture values harmony really hardcore. If someone is outspoken they donâ€™t oppose, they simply ignore or eliminate him/her. But I believe mutation is essential for evolution. Someone may call me a â€˜virusâ€™ not a mutation, but hell, some people feel me.
Going back to the album, Shi Bal Nom is my favorite track hands down and it’s also my favorite Korean swear word. If you had to choose, which song from the album and swear word -in any language- is your favorite?
Shi Bal Nom would be my choice too. Personally I donâ€™t swear much, and I never call someone with swear words, but this â€˜Shi-Bal-Nomâ€™ is special because itâ€™s a statement. The song shows my lineage, my power and my attitude. Like African Americans turned â€˜niggerâ€™ into â€˜niggaâ€™ and eventually â€˜negusâ€™, I want Shi Bal Nom to be that word. To any Korean-Japanese or Zainichi individual who got bullied by getting called â€˜Chonkoâ€™ or â€˜Nidaâ€™ or â€˜Chousen-jinâ€™, I want them to listen to this song and feel empowered, going out and say â€˜Yeah I be that Chibi modafucka You can call me Shi Bal Nomâ€™.
There weren’t many features on MOMENTS, but I did notice that you collaborate with an artist named “C.Muligan” often. There’s not much info on them out there so I wanted to ask you, who are they and what about their creativity helps you bring out your creativity?
C.Muligan is my cousin. Sheâ€™s also attending to Osaka University and studying sociology and gender issues and stuff. She kinda loathes me? but still uses me as an opportunity to express herself since she loves R&B and singing for herself. Sheâ€™s a bigger nerd than I am so the song â€˜Luthienâ€™ was her idea. She reminds me the nerdy or emotional side I got when I tend to get too “thinky” and serious. I like her, except when she acts like Iâ€™m a stupid pet dog and sheâ€™s a Russian Blue â€“ which is true, sadly.
Since we’re on the topic of creating, what’s your creative process been like for this album?
On this project I focused on showing many faces of mine. Personally I was in the mood for making more songs about personal matters like LIMBO or go straight out raging with songs like Shi Bal Nom, but I contained myself with helps from my friends. They reminded me that Iâ€™m more versatile than I think I was. After deciding what subjects I should sing about, it didnâ€™t take long to write lyrics, but it was a challenge to produce actual songs since I participated on song writings and beat makings too. And then C.Muligan jumped on and finished every song with her chorus.
Will any of the tracks from MOMENTS see a video release?
I be that Chibi Modafucka so maybe, yeah.
Since the album’s been out, you’ve been busy with live performences and you’ve even released a few new tracks. Are you gearing up for another mixtape?
Maybe not. Iâ€™m a big fan of mixtape culture and I always have at least 2 or 3 ideas for mixtapes, but right now I want to focus on making my next album, â€˜Easy World, Troubled Childâ€™. But maybe, just maybe I can do a mixtape in Korean. Or a joint mixtape with crazy modafucka called â€˜Pussy Trackâ€™.
Where can people find you online?
You can find me at twitter @MOMENT_SWAG_CAT . Iâ€™m addicted to twitter and basically living in the internet, so if you want to talk to me, anytime.
Lastly, what would you like to say to new listeners, especially those who are checking in internationally?
If you have listened any of my music, thank you so much. You may never know but you are the reason why Iâ€™m still alive. Doesnâ€™t mean you saved me, but youâ€™re being the reason why I get up every morning and pursue the life. I believe youâ€™re listening and watching me, because youâ€™re expecting something real and meaningful, and Iâ€™m ready to give you that. At least Iâ€™ll try.
To anyone never heard of me â€“ I maybe not be the rapper who can fulfill your fantasy about a boy from Japan. If you want something Japanesque Iâ€™m not the guy cuz Iâ€™m rather on the side which criticize fixed views on cultures and ethnicity. I talk real shit and weird shit. I deal with politics, racism and JRR Tolkien. But my arms are always open so, come fuck with me.
Tiffology and I like to ask a few Random Questions with each interview, just to get a sense of our subject’s personalities. Also because we’re pretty weird and ask each other these things often, so we kinda like to see the quirky side of everyone we interview as well.
Random Question: Can you draw a picture of what you wanted to be as a child?Â
I always wanted to beâ€¦. younger. Even when I was like 17, I wanted to go back to 13. I never wanted to be something or someone because what I wanted was to reverse time. The meaning of my name â€˜MOMENTâ€™ comes from there. Beside all the complicated topics, the core motivation of my music is to capture the nostalgia.
Random Question 2: What’s the one quote that sticks with you no matter what?Â
â€œEternity â‰ Eternal. Moment = Eternalâ€
Random Question 3: What’s the one quote from yourself that you’d like to be remembered by?
The 3rd verse of my song â€˜Worth Fighting Forâ€™, from my mixtape â€˜Season of Lettersâ€™:
ç„¡è¦–ã—ã‚ˆã†ã¨ã—ã¦ã‚‚ He knows and she knows
HOPE ã‚ˆã‚Šã¯ãšã£ã¨ HATEãŒ
ã ã‹ã‚‰è«¦ã‚ãªã„ã§ é—˜ã„ã‚’