‘B-Stylers’ Are Japanese Teens Who Want To Be Black

Dutch photographer Desiré van den Berg has spent the past seven months traveling around Asia. She lives in Hong Kong at the moment, but when she was in Tokyo, back in December 2013, she met Hina, a 23-year-old who works at a trendy Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop. Hina’s shop has the tagline “Black for Life.” She describes its products as “a tribute to Black culture: the music, the fashion, and style of dance.”

Hina’s appearance is also loyal to what the Japanese call “B-style”—a contraction of the words “Black” and “Lifestyle” that refers to a subculture of young Japanese people who love American hip-hop culture so much that they do everything in their power to look as African American as possible.

I called up Desiré to find out more about her time photographing Hina and her gang.

VICE: How did you meet Hina?
Desiré van den Berg:
 She appeared in a documentary about B-style a couple of years back, which I happened to watch. This is what got me interested in the culture. It took a lot of effort, but I eventually got in touch with her on Facebook, through other B-stylers. I said I wanted to take photos of her, and she actually thought that was pretty cool. It was all a bit of a hassle, though, because Hina and the other B-stylers didn’t speak a single word of English. We needed a translator both to make an appointment and at the actual first meeting, too.

How does that work in terms of translating rap lyrics?
Hina speaks some English but not fluently. She does like to use some English slang when she speaks Japanese with her B-style friends, like finishing a sentence with “man” or using bad words like “motherfucker” jokingly.

I know Japan is full of weird subcultures, but how do you explain this one?
There are things like the Harajuku Girls, which I guess are rather normal but some are complete excesses. B-style is the sort of thing you would find on wtfjapanseriously.com. Hina often goes to New York, and she idolizes America. Japanese TV is full of American films and commercials and that must be a reason, too. She sees America as a kind of promised land.

Is B-style big in Japan?
No. It’s pretty small; you don’t really see it on the streets. You really have to look for it. According to Hina, it was bigger a couple of years ago—now there are only a few die-hards left in each city. It’s definitely not mainstream, and maybe still to small to even call it a subculture.

What do B-stylers like Hina mainly do?
Hina, for example, visits a tanning salon every week to darken her skin. I was surprised these tanning salons even exist, because in Japan it is a classic beauty ideal to have your skin be as pale as possible.

Just to be clear: Hina is 100 percent Japanese and naturally has pale skin. She is only dark because of the sunbed and the use of really dark foundation. B-stylers also listen to hip-hop, and visit special African hair salons to get braids or curly hair. These salons are usually found in Tokyo’s ghettos and are run by small African communities. Hina wears colored contact lenses: they are a lighter shade of brown to make her eyes seem bigger.

Do B-stylers get together, or does it mainly exist online?
There are special B-style events where primarily Japanese youth breakdance and dance to hip-hop and R&B. Even though the event attracts mostly Japanese people, you hear a lot of typical slang. I went to one of those events and had the feeling that all of a sudden everything had come together. I got the sense that it’s a bigger group than I’d imagined.

Are there people who believe this to be inappropriate?
Apparently not in Japan, but in most comments underneath videos on YouTube you see fierce reactions. Many seem to feel the Afro-American typecasting is all wrong. Hina and other B-stylers are not really aware of this.

And what do B-stylers’ families think of their lifestyles?
When I was in Japan I realized that it’s considered really impolite to stare. You see the weirdest people on the streets, but no one stares, not like the way they can in the Netherlands, where I’m from. It’s easier for people to be who they want to be. Hina’s parents are fine with it. Her mom sees it as a phase that will pass. Even though many Japanese feel right at home in the mass, it is still a land of extremes, which manage to coexist rather well.

You can see more of Desiré’s work here.


What to Watch: BUSK [documentary]

BUSK is a short, social issues and subcultural music documentary, following five musicians as they busk in the arteries of the NYC subway system––Persevering to display their talent for income, sustenance, and a means to work, the busker’s experiences are portrayed through interviews, and live performances on the subway platforms. By exploring the city’s music programs, laws, and the musicians’ passion to perform, BUSK, takes the audience below into the heart of New York to hear the real sounds of the subway system.

BUSK – film from Ramon Nyitrai on Vimeo.

Street performance or busking is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities.[1] In many countries the rewards are generally in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink or gifts may be given. Street performance is practiced all over the world by men, women and children and dates back to antiquity. In English speaking countries people engaging in this practice are called street performers or buskers.

Diplo, Haim and Spike Lee Reveal Nike’s U.S. Soccer Kit For 2014 FIFA World Cup

Earlier today Nike unveiled its national soccer team uniform for the coming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and assisting in the reveal of the red, white and blue uniform is DiploSpike Lee, and sister trioHAIM. Creating a bridge between fans and soccer players, the musical figures were pictured alongside the likes of players Andrew Luck and Ndamukong Suh, as well as other notable soccer fans such as skateboarder Erik Koston and track and field gold medalist Allyson Felix. Check out the kit above and head here for information on how to purchase.


Why Major Creative Breakthroughs Happen in Your Late Thirties

James Murphy, the former frontman of the band LCD Soundsystem, made what he called the biggest mistake of his life at 21, when he turned down a writing job on a sitcom that was about to launch. 

The sitcom’s name was Seinfeld.

 Instead, he lurched around, working as a bouncer and later a DJ before finally releasing the first LCD Soundsystem album at the not-so-tender age of 35.

Murphy might have been older than some of his dance-rock peers, but his experience is fairly common among people who experience major creative breakthroughs, according to a new paper from NBER.

The authors examined the high points of the careers of both great inventors and Nobel-Prize winning scientists, and they found that the late 30s were the sweet spot for strokes of genius:
Innovators have been peaking slightly later in life as the 20th century has progressed, in part because today’s scientists have more to learn than their predecessors did:

What’s more, people who excel in abstract fields, like art or physics, tend to be younger than those who win prizes in fields that require more context, like history or medicine. Another 1977 study found that physics Nobel winners were 36 on average when they did their prize-winning work, while chemists were 39 and medical doctors were 41.

So why the late 30s? The most obvious factor is education: Scientists spend ages 5 through 18 in school, and then ages 18 through 30ish getting their academic degrees. Then a few years of learning on the job, and presto! You dig up an uncertainty principle. Meanwhile, scientific breakthroughs tend to be less common in old age because we invest less in learning as we get older, and our skills gradually become less relevant.

There’s evidence from the humanities, though, that genius doesn’t decline with age at all. Over 40% of both Robert Frost’s and William Carlos Williams’ best poems were written after the poets turned 50. Paul Cézanne’s highest-priced paintings were made the year he died.

The NBER paper found that scientists who are theoretical (coming up with new ways of thinking) tend to peak earlier than those who are experimental (coming up with answers based on existing knowledge) by about 4.6 years.

This happens for two reasons: First, theoretical scientists don’t necessarily have to wait for a bunch of experiments to get completed and published. Second, and perhaps more importantly, being relatively new to their fields allows them to see the holes and fissures that veterans might not.
Here’s how the study’s authors explain it:
The most important conceptual work typically involve radical departures from existing paradigms, and the ability to identify and appreciate these radical departures may be greatest shortly after initial exposure to a paradigm, before it has been fully assimilated.

They quote Sigmund Freud in Civilization and its Discontents as writing, “The conceptions I have summarized here I first put forward only tentatively, but in the course of time they have won such a hold over me that I can no longer think in any other way.”

Genius, it seems, happens when a seasoned mind sees a problem with fresh eyes.

Introducing Alpha Girls

Mnet America proudly presents its latest original series, Alpha Girls, featuring TOKiMONSTA (DJ/Producer), Mina Kwon (Artist), Soo Joo Park (Fashion Model) and Lanie Alabanza-Barcena (Designer).

Alpha Girls follows four jet-setting, career driven girls at the top of their creative games as they juggle work, relationships and everything in between to grow their brand and themselves personally. Capturing the essence of their hustle and the drama of their everyday lives, Alpha Girls will reveal each of their individual and universal journeys as they work with some of the biggest names in the music and fashion industries.

*Premiering Wednesday, February 26 @8PM PST/EST!

For more info, check out:

Is White Privilege to Blame for Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Snub?

Seven. Kendrick Lamar was nominated for seven Grammy awards this year. In the Grammy calendar year, he made what is undeniably the best, most complete album. good kid, m.A.A.d city is more than just an album—it is an experience—a neo-blues, hip-hop opera. Yet, at the end of the night, he came away with nothing; and it seemed like everywhere he turned, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were there snatching the awards he fought so hard for.

But it’s hard to hate Macklemore. Macklemore is a white rapper who addressed white privilege early in his career—something many white rappers have refused to acknowledge while laughing all the way to the bank—and continues to address it even on The Heist. He made an album without an A-list feature; instead, he asked his friends, Wanz, Ray Dalton, and Owuor Arunga, to feature on songs that would eventually become back-to-back number-one singles. He made his friends famous, how cool is that?

The Grammys have always been at least worthy of commentary on race relations and the politics of industry relationships; the Recording Academy’s voting body skews older and white. It would appear that the Grammys are more than willing to give out awards to musicians making black music, but not so willing to award black musicians. In walks Macklemore, a socio-politically-conscious rapper, but a white rapper nonetheless; this wouldn’t matter if history didn’t precede him. But the history is there.

To break this down simply for white readers: think about what it must be like to see people who look like you make incredible bodies of work, and yet consistently be denied accolades. What kind of message does that send and reinforce? Not having to think about this is the definition of white privilege.

Hip-hop is a culture that was born from marginalized Black and Hispanic communities, and rappers from those marginalized communities fought and protested for hip-hop awards to be included in the Grammys’ televised portion. There wasn’t even a Grammy award for Best Rap Album until 1996. This is the lineage Kendrick, not Macklemore, descends from. Macklemore admitted via instagram that Kendrick’s album was better, but how much does that help quell the anger of fans who have seen Black artists, and specifically hip-hop artists, snubbed one too many times?

But we’re not afraid to say it: Kendrick Lamar was snubbed in the Best Rap Album category. Macklemore made a great, energetic LP; Kendrick made a 21st century masterpiece.

Let us know your thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy snub in the comments.


According to New Study, There is No Link Between Violent Crime and Rap Music

Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel once said that rising gun violence was a function of “hip-hop culture.” Nope. If anything, hip-hop is saving America from crime.

Several years before he decided to challenge Mississippi’s incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran this year, McDaniel hosted a conservative talk radio show. Mother Jones, which has a pretty solid track record of uncovering embarrassing audio filesrecently, came across (via Dark Horse Mississippi) a teaser promo from McDaniel’s radio show, which he hosted from 2004 to 2007. In it, McDaniel made the claim.

“Let’s be very outspoken about what we’re talking about here. The reason Canada is breaking out in brand-new gun violence has nothing to do with the United States and guns. It has everything to do with a culture that is morally bankrupt. It’s called hip-hop.”

“Before you get carried away,” he continues, “this has nothing to do with race. There are just as many hip-hoppin’ white kids and Asian kids as there are black kids.” The hip-hop culture, he said, can’t get control of itself.

Well, let’s consider this. First of all, we’ll accept for the sake of argument that McDaniel, who was last in the news when his links to pro-Confederate groups came to light, doesn’t consider this is a racial issue. We will also set aside the lack of any “redeeming qualities” of the genre; that’s subjective. And we’ll even ignore the claim that Canada is breaking out in new gun violence. In 2005, the country saw a sudden increase in gun-related homicides — that brought the national total to 223. The next year, it was back down to 190.

Let’s just focus on McDaniel’s argument that hip-hop causes crime. If anything — if the data offers us any indication at all — the opposite is true. As the popularity of rap music increased, crime in the United States fell, particularly at the point in which violent, gangsta rap took hold. And if we use McDaniel’s criterion — I think there’s a relationship, therefore there is — we’ve proven him wrong.

To demonstrate this, we pulled crime data compiled by the FBI as a function of population to track how crime has evolved in this country. We focused on the total number of crimes and the amount of violent crime. Then, to gauge the popularity of hip-hop, we turned to the Whitburn Project, an ongoing, underground tabulation of the popularity of singles dating back to 1890. (You can read about it here.) The Whitburn Project indicates the top charting tracks for each year and, for an extensive period, categorizes them by genre. So we took the period of 1980 to 2005 — from just after rap’s birth to the point at which Whitburn’s genre data is less complete — and assessed how much of popular music was dominated by rap. Giving us these charts.


It’s worth noting that the “hip-hop culture” McDaniel decries wasn’t based on the Fresh Prince / Run DMC rap of the 1980s. He means the heavy stuff, which appeared at the end of that decade. In fact, violent crime peaked in 1991 — the same year as NWA’s seminal Efil 4 Zaggin* was released. So, can we thank Mssrs. Ice Cube, Dre, Eazy, and Ren for saving America? Well, no. Crime and music, nearly anyone will tell you, are not linked. “Hip-hop culture,” such as it is, had nothing to do with the amount of crime in U.S., or Canada, at least if actual hip-hop music is any indicator.

You know what kind of music does correlate with America’s increase in crime? Rock music. But that has nothing to do with race. There’s just as many black and Asian kids that were into rock as white kids. Don’t blame them for rock culture.

* Not its actual name.

[via The Wire]


Race, Tattoos in Advertising Affect What Consumers Buy

When deciding whether to make an online purchase, skin color matters to some consumers, new research finds.

A study recently published in the Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society discovered that online shoppers are less likely to purchase a product if a black person or someone with a tattoo is selling it.

As part of the study, researchers conducted a yearlong experiment selling iPods in about 1,200 online classified ads placed in more than 300 locales throughout the United States, ranging from small towns to major cities. They tested for racial bias among buyers by featuring photographs of the Apple iPod — all of which were silver, 8GB “current models” of the iPod nano digital media player, described as new in an unopened box, and for sale because the seller did not need it — held by a man’s hand that was black, white or white with a wrist tattoo.

The experiment found that black sellers did worse than white sellers on a variety of metrics. Specifically, black sellers received 13% fewer responses, 18% fewer offers, and offers that were 11% to 12% lower. The results were similar in magnitude to those associated with a white seller’s display of a tattoo.

Researchers also found that buyers corresponding with a black seller also behave in ways suggesting they trust the seller less. They were 17% less likely to include their names, 44% less likely to agree to a proposed delivery by mail and 56% more likely to express concern about making a long-distance payment.

“We were really struck to find as much racial discrimination as we did,” said University of Virginia professor Jennifer Doleac, a co-author of the study.

While the researchers weren’t made aware of the potential buyer’s race, Doleac said they did know the racial makeups of the local area where they placed the ad, which varied across the country. She said on average, they found that black sellers did better in areas where a larger share of the local population was black, which suggests that buyers might have a preference for own-race sellers.

Researchers also discovered that black sellers do worst in markets with high property-crime rates and more racially segregated housing, suggesting that at least part of the explanation is “statistical discrimination” — that is, where race is used as a proxy for unobservable negative characteristics, such as the potential danger involved in the transaction, or the possibility that the iPod may be stolen — rather than simply “taste-based” discrimination.

“Buyers might not be trying to avoid buying from black sellers, per se, but are trying to avoid something else that they think is correlated with race: traveling to a dangerous neighborhood, buying stolen goods, etc,” Doleac told BusinessNewsDaily. “This suggests that providing more information (e.g. central meeting places, purchase guarantees) could reduce racial disparities in outcomes.”

The study was co-authored by Luke C.D. Stein, an assistant professor of finance at Arizona State University.


Interracial Dating Still Not “Okay” For White Pop Stars

One Twitter user gets to their stupid point, plain and simple: “Lorde and Her Boyfriend Make Me Uncomfortable.”

Whenever someone crosses that sad pissing circle drawn around male celebrity, especially in music, there’s always a backlash. Now, I’m too old to really give a damn, but in this case, I’ll pipe up. Lorde, the New Zealand wunderkind who released her debut Pure Heroine this year, with smash-hit single “Royals,” is caught in a crosshairs for doing the unthinkable:

Dating an Asian guy.

These Internet trolls have taken to ripping apart Lorde and her boyfriend, photographer James Lowe. Apparently, fans of One Direction and Justin Bieber believe she called the artists “ugly.” Now, defenders of baby-faced white boys the Twitterverse-over are taking it upon themselves to unleash toxic and downright racist comments about Lowe, as first reported by Jezebel and Buzz Feed.

Outspoken about artists like Selena Gomex and Nicki Minaj, Lorde presents herself as a feminist and open critic of her fellow pop culture stars. This angered some young fans. “I think there’s a funny culture in music that’s only happened over the last 15 years, that if you have an opinion about something in music that isn’t 100 percent good, you’re a ‘hater,’ even if you have perfectly reasonable grounds for that critique,” Lorde told MTV News in October.

One Twitter user gets to their stupid point, plain and simple: “Lorde and Her Boyfriend Make Me Uncomfortable.”

This startling honesty is probably the realest thing we can expect from racists. Their discomfort comes from difference. Difference equals ugly, awkward and unsexy. Difference means we can’t imagine these two strolling on a beach, just as much as we can’t imagine them having sex. It’s hard for progressive folks to imagine, for interracial dating is as common as air. It just isn’t a big deal.

And Lorde, despite her youth, whiteness and cool factor is subject to the vehement denial (and disgust) of Asian male sexuality. By choosing to love James Lowe, it seems these haters believe she’s relegated herself to the U.S.’s dating netherworld. Among some of the Twitter users I clicked, it seemed that the respondents were predominantly young and from the U.S., white, South Asian,

We’ve become used to this sort of backlash from these sad bigots that troll the Internet, looking to bully and break people down. If Lorde had dated a Black or Latino pop star, there would be different permutations of the same sad problem. When we cast these normative standards of beauty and who we choose to love

Now, for those of us that love themselves some Asian men: hey Lorde, welcome to the club. For the rest of the vitriolic haters on Twitter:

Leave Lorde and her boyfriend the fuck alone.

[Hyphen Magazine]

Should We Boycott R. Kelly’s New Album?

R. Kelly is one of the most successful R&B artists of our time. He’s sold 54 million records globally, had a career that spans three decades and penned classic records that have provided the soundtrack for some of our best moments.

But while folks were bumping and grinding to his hits, other things were going bump in the night.

In 1994, R. Kelly married a 15-year-old girl named Aaliyah Haughton. The marriage was eventually annulled. They never addressed the union publicly and, consequently, it seemed like R&B folklore. Two years later R. Kelly was sued for $10 million by Tiffany “Tia” Hawkins.

According to the lawsuit, Hawkins started having sex with R. Kelly when she was 15 and he was 24. After the “relationship” ended, Hawkins (then aged 18) slit her wrists in a suicide attempt. A friend of Hawkins alleged that she engaged in a threesome with Kelly and Hawkins while she was 16. The super star settled the lawsuit.

In 2000, Barry Hankerson resigned as R. Kelly’s manager. In a letter to R. Kelly’s attorney, Hankerson states he believes Kelly needs psychiatric help due to his proclivity toward pursuing underage girls.

In 2001, a young woman from Chicago named Tracy Sampson sued R. Kelly. In the lawsuit, it’s alleged she lost her virginity to Kelly at 17, was treated like a “sex object” and was pressured by Kelly into receiving oral sex from a girl she didn’t want to have sex with. He settled the lawsuit. The next year the singer was sued by another young woman from Chicago, named Patrice Jones. Jones estimated that she had sex with Kelly between 20 and 30 times before her 17th birthday. Jones states in her suit that R. Kelly impregnated her while she was underage and then arranged for one of his employees to take her to have an abortion. R. Kelly settled the lawsuit.

In June 2002, R Kelly was indicted on child pornography charges on account of a widely circulated sex tape where he was seen urinating on a young woman. Following a controversial trial where neither Kelly nor his alleged victim took the stand, Kelly was acquitted. Although prosecutors could not definitively say when the tape was made (or if it was indeed the alleged victim), multiple family members state it’s the alleged victim. A friend of the alleged victim claimed the tape was created in the summer after eighth grade.

A more fleshed out timeline of events can be found here. Despite the volume of evidence that would mean a man as compromised and tarnished as R. Kelly would either be incarcerated or a pariah, R. Kelly is neither. In fact quite the opposite is true.

R. Kelly is a free man who is currently heavily promoting his latest record “Black Panties.” As I’ve watched R Kelly court the mainstream media with no resistance, it’s apparent that R. Kelly’s having a career comeback of sorts. This resurgence isn’t being tempered by questions, or appeals to look further into his personal life to ensure that there aren’t any more victims.

There are no protests. No demands for a boycott of his music. Instead of wanting no more R. Kelly, the world wants more of what R. Kelly offers. In fact, loving R. Kelly has become one of these ironic hipster trends that are emblematic of the things many of us despise about Hipsterism.

Lady Gaga gyrated with him on SNL; Jezebel described Black Panties as a “magnificent ode to pussy.” Twitter’s joyously quoting the crude sexual metaphors that litter his latest album. All the people and platforms who I assumed would push back against society and the media embracing a pervert don’t seem to care.

There’s an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence that indicates R. Kelly is a sexual predator who grooms young girls to fulfill his perverse sexual fantasies. Despite this, the silence persists. My question is an obvious one: Why?

The simplest theory is it’s because of the music. R. Kelly’s talent is so colossal, his music so powerful, that it justifies us ignoring his exploitation and violation of the comparatively powerless. Plus, we’re aware that when wealth and fame are conjoined, almost anything a man does can be overlooked. Roman Polanski sodomized a 13-year-old girl, continued to have a successful career and many were outraged when there were calls for his extradition to face charges.

However I’m not sure I agree with Occam’s razor here — sometimes the simplest explanation isn’t the most probable.

To attribute the rehabilitation of R. Kelly as a musical hero to his music alone would be lazy. I believe who his victims have been — and, crucially, what they look like — plays a massive part in our collective willingness to embrace a predator. They were all little black girls.

Recently a trending topic on Twitter called #fasttailgirls was started by@karnythia and moderated by @hoodfeminism. It discussed the sexualization of young black girls and how, due to no fault of their own, young black girls are made responsible when their bodies are violated. In this context the victims are criminalized and chastised, and the perpetrators valorized.

As I read the trending topic and watched women boldly share their truth, it occurred to me why R. Kelly’s comeback disturbs me so much. If R. Kelly’s victims had looked different, had fit the archetype of what we believe victims typically look like (whiter, blonder and more in line with what we’re taught to associate with innocence), maybe there would be uproar.

The bodies that R. Kelly has violated belong to girls we do not believe are worthy of protection or uproar. In fact we’re taught to believe this type of girl “asked for it” or did something to warrant her abuse.

Historically, black women’s bodies have been in the crudest sense property. This impacts how their bodies are treated today. In many ways they are still viewed public property. However they’re not perceived as beautiful legacy buildings that are national treasures in need of being preserved and protected. They’re the type of buildings we should have total access to when we see fit. The type of buildings we neglect and ignore. If there are any visitors, they’re trespassers.

But R. Kelly’s never-waning popularity isn’t just about power and race. It’s about how we treat our victims of sexual assault. By celebrating R. Kelly and other men like him, whether it’s because they’re geniuses, family members or “pillars” of our community, we’re implicitly saying to victims of sexual assault that their bodies and stories don’t matter. You can be urinated on, married at an age when you cannot legally give your consent, manipulated and coerced. You can gather the courage to come forward to the police; however, we will honor, protect and revere the man who violated you, rather than honor your courage by ensuring your words aren’t in vain.

R. Kelly’s legacy isn’t that of a tortured genius who had legal woes. R Kelly’s legacy is one that shows me what happens when society is silent. If we look inwardly, we’ll admit that although we weren’t co-conspirators, in our silence we have become complicit. We didn’t shout enough. We didn’t demand more.

We didn’t demand more for Aaliyah, Tiffany, Tracy, Patrice, the young woman on the sex tape and the other girls who never came forward. And why should anyone else come forward? History has demonstrated that even if they do speak, we will reward their testimony not just with silence but with turning the radio up even louder.