Creepy Nuts Talk ‘Unexpected’ Hit ‘Bling-Bang-Bang-Born’ Topping Billboard Japan Mid-Year Charts: Interview

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Billboard Japan released its 2024 mid-year charts last week, and Creepy Nuts’ viral hit “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” topped the all-genre Japan Hot 100 list compiled from six metrics.

The catchy rap banger was featured as the opening theme song for the TV anime series MASHLE season 2, which premiered in January. Along with the infectious dance moves of the anime’s opening clip, the hip-hop hit gained overwhelming support from listeners, mainly through TikTok and streams.

The popularity of the song spilled over from Japan to other countries, and the track spent 19 straight weeks atop the Global Japan Songs Excl. Japan tally — the longest consecutive streak at No. 1 on this chart. This puts the viral hit atop the mid-year tally for this and numerous other rankings for an unprecedented total of 13 No. 1s.

The tremendous momentum that propelled “BBBB” up the charts was something that the pair, rapper R-shitei (“R-rated”) and DJ Matsunaga, never anticipated. The two spoke about their long-running hit in this mid-year chart-topper interview and shared their common mindset of enjoying what they never imagined.

Congratulations on “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” topping 13 charts including the Japan Hot 100 and Global Japan Songs Excl. Japan charts on Billboard Japan’s 2024 mid-year reports. Tell us how you feel about these accolades.

R-shitei: I wasn’t expecting it at all, so I’m surprised, or rather… It still hasn’t really hit me yet. But I’m thankful. It’s gratifying.

DJ Matsunaga: The song became a hit when I was working at my own pace, in a kind of “I’ll just take it slow and have fun making music” mindset, which highlighted the unexpectedness of it all. I’m at a place where it’s all too much of a blessing and I haven’t been able to take it in. [Laughs]

R-shitei: We weren’t trying to break out overseas at all, either. I’ve always thought that our style of music… my rapping in particular, is super-native, the type of rap that’s interesting only to those who understand the Japanese language. Of course I do want to make rap music that’d be awesome to listen to even for those who don’t understand the language, but I thought that Japanese was the crux of my rapping. I’ve never really considered tailoring my style to fit international audiences.

That’s interesting. Along the lines of what R-shitei just said about his verses, your tracks sound really “Japanese” as well. Could you share your thoughts on this, DJ Matsunaga? I have a feeling “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born,” even with its Jersey club beat, would have turned out differently if, say, an American track maker had produced it.

DJ Matsunaga: Well… Our stance is, “Let’s make something we’ve never heard before.” The thing is, there’s no reference when we’re mixing our songs, so I often find it hard to convey what I’m aiming for to the engineer. There are no similar songs.

R-shitei: [To Matsunaga] When a song we’re working on turns out to be something that doesn’t exist elsewhere, it feels worth it, doesn’t it? We feel the greatest sense of accomplishment when we create a type of song not found anywhere else in the world… In the U.S. or any other foreign country.

DJ Matsunaga: I made the sound of that track based on my own ideas… The combination of Latin and Jersey club music was rare. Plus, not just one but a number of things I’ve adopted and have been inspired by are included in a track. I mix them together and then my habitual hand movements are added to the mix. I also mess around a lot when I make each song, waiting for an “accident” (unexpected turn of events) to happen. We have other Jersey club-inspired songs with a feel for chord progression besides “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born,” but none of them have such a solid riff.

Lyrically, “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” and “Nidone” were written as tie-ins for an anime and drama series, respectively, and while both include content inspired by those works, they don’t end there, which I think is brilliant. Do you start assembling the lyrics after being tapped to work on a project?

R-shitei: Basically, yes. But looking back at our songs written as tie-ins up to now, because of hip-hop as an art form, I end up singing about me. And I want to sing about me, it’s harder not to. Both “Nidone” and “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” were written so that they end up being about me, even though they’re linked to other works. In fact, when I work on a tie-in, instead of conforming to the source material, I take the theme or the worldview of the original work and then ask, “So, what about me?” I write lyrics that I can ultimately shoulder to the end as something that pertains to myself. That’s basically how I’ve always done it.

By the way, did you routinely check music charts, including those other than Billboard Japan, before “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” became a hit?

DJ Matsunaga: No, I never really looked at the charts. I’ve looked at streaming charts and the like for the purpose of checking out new music, but honestly never thought I’d ever look at the charts from the viewpoint of a participant.

R-Shitei: I used to think that charts didn’t have anything to do with me. Seeing ourselves alongside people like Taylor Swift and 21 Savage makes me go, “Come on, this must be a lie that some junior high kid who just started rapping came up with.” [Laughs]

The week when “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Global Excl. US chart, Taylor was at No. 5, Miley Cyrus was at No. 6, and and Ye (Kanye West) & Ty Dolla $ign were at No. 10. [Week of Feb. 24, 2024] 

R-shitei: I thought, “That’s insane!”

DJ Matsunaga: Really. It’s not like we weren’t thinking, “Damn, Kanye’s new album came out at the same time!” [Laughs]

R-shitei: If some younger rapper were saying that, you’d tell them to cut it out, wouldn’t you?

DJ Matsunaga: I sure would. [Laughs]. I’d be like, “Come on, man, cool it.”

Your songs have been appearing on the upper tiers of the Japan charts since “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” became a hit, and the public’s expectations for new songs seem to be growing rapidly. Could you share your future plans in terms of new music?

DJ Matsunaga: The next song we’re releasing is already done. The song we’re writing next will be… Well, this is completely subjective, but it’ll be aggressive, and we’ll focus more on points like, “We’ve learned a new way of doing things,” “We’ve updated ourselves,” and “We’ve come up with another song that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world” when we’re working on it. I wonder what kind of song it’ll turn out to be?

Oh, so you don’t know what to expect, either?

R-shitei: But that’s what we hope will happen. We’re happier when we come up with something that’s not like what we’re imagining now. 

DJ Matsunaga: Yeah, that’s so true. It’s not much fun just taking what we’ve imagined, what’s done in our minds, and making a clean copy of it in reality.

R-shitei: It’s more fun when it’s like, “Whoa, this is how it turned out?!”

DJ Matsunaga: That’s so true. The fun part is that the two of us can definitely make that happen by playing catch with each other. I’m sure we’ll be able to make things that we can’t imagine now. All of our new songs will be like that.

Creepy Nuts is set to perform at South Korea’s Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival 2024 in August. This will be your first performance outside of Japan after “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” became a hit. Is there anything you’re looking forward to?

R-shitei: I’m not looking forward to anything much, but we will try to do our best and are considering what to do.

DJ Matsunaga: For sure. But I think that’ll be so much fun. When we were starting out as a duo, we didn’t even have our own songs, so every show was like an away game. The process of trying to gain fans by all possible means was really rewarding and fun. And now, thankfully, we’re performing more and more in places we’ve been before where there are a certain number of people who’ve heard our songs, so I’m really grateful to be able to take on such challenges again from square one at this timing and at my age, when I’ve experienced various things to some extent.

Are you willing to expand your activities globally in the future?

R-shitei: I’d love to. I want to go to various places, to various countries to do shows. I haven’t been outside of Japan much in my daily life to begin with, so being able to go with our music in tow will give us something in return, you know? I’m really looking forward to seeing if and how the things we express will change.

DJ Matsunaga: Yes, I’m willing. It’s the same in Japan, but if you listen to hip-hop from overseas, there really aren’t many artists these days who do engaging shows with just rapping and DJing.

R-shitei: I know, right?

DJ Matsunaga: All I can say is that we’re really grateful that that’s the case. [Laughs] So it’s exciting to be able to take our style and go out in front of people who’ve never heard our music before. 

Lastly, a lot of songs from Japan that rank high on global charts, including “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born,” tend to be a blend of Japanese and Western styles, or have some Japanese elements to them. As a duo that has taken pride in exploring Japanese rap throughout its career, could you tell us how you face the Japanese language and elements of Japanese-ness in your music?

R-shitei: I don’t face it, but rather, it turns out that way when I do things naturally. Personally, the first thing I listened to was rap by Japanese artists. When I try to do something that’s fun and feels good to the max in a natural way, elements of Japanese style are probably going to surface no matter what. And I think that’s good, so it just overflows without my thinking consciously about it. The things I’ve absorbed by being born and raised in this land are being outputted.

I also look forward to how something I’ve never seen before will come about as I change through other influences. Of course, I do think about using and studying various languages, but in the end, the language that suits me best is the language of my own country. As for my rapping, I don’t think that will change much.

DJ Matsunaga: When you look at the Japanese music market, there are many templates. Themes, sounds, chord progressions, and all other aspects of a song can be said to be “designed for the Japanese charts.” If you make a song based solely on the J-pop model, the range of expression becomes extremely limited. Plus, that J-pop model is incompatible with the sound production and songwriting of hip-hop, so I’ve completely given up, or rather abandoned, the idea of creating songs that will perform well on the domestic charts.

I want to use everything properly — my own sensibilities, new things I’m constantly absorbing, styles unique to Japan, overseas trends. But I think songs sound catchier when there are fewer notes. In any case, I want people to listen to rap music. I think it’s absolutely true that the voice is the catchiest instrument. With that in mind, I design my tracks in a very conscious way.

I see now that the blend of Japanese and Western styles and the sonically Japanese elements in Creepy Nuts’ music are the products of both of your personalities.

DJ Matsunaga: Yes. Well, highlighting R’s Japanese may be a big factor, because he raps in a way that makes the Japanese come across in a solid way. And yet his flow is freakier than those who break down the language to make it sound more like English.

R-shitei: I want to rap to different beats and also want to try out various ways of playing with Japanese. A big part of rap is about how much you can play around with language, so I’ve always wanted to create something good by manipulating the words I see as someone who has lived a normal life instead of forcing myself to use U.S.-like phrases.

DJ Matsunaga: Polishing up our songs while maintaining that and seeing how much they resonate with people who don’t know Japanese at all is what makes it worthwhile.

This interview by Maiko Murata first appeared on Billboard Japan

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