Zeebra (born April 2, 1971 in Tokyo, Japan) is a famous Japanese hip hop artist, who made his first appearance in 1995. Known as the first rapper in Japan, Zeebra is a former member of the legendary hip-hop group King Giddra, which also included DJ Oasis and K Dub Shine. He went on to pursue a solo career shortly after in 1997, and signed with the Future Shock record label. Having appeared in several TV commercials, instigated hip-hop television programs, and produced songs for upcoming rappers, Zeebra could be called the father of the Japanese rap scene.
Zeebra remains probably the most popular rapper in Japan, and is admired by both men and women. He appears not only in hip-hop magazines, but also in fashion and street culture magazines. He often features in and produces other rappers’ songs, and appears in their videos. He has also appeared as an opening act for American rappers.
In 1998 Zeebra undertook his first solo tour. This is when he started being recognized as an individual rapper for the first time, making hip-hop more familiar to Japanese listeners. In the same year he started the first hip-hop TV program in Japan, titled Beats to the Rhyme. One of Zeebra’s songs was used in a Nike promotion video for NBA Japan games. The following year Zeebra released the single “Mr. Dynamite”, the first hip-hop single to break into the top 50 on the Japanese pop charts. In June 2000, he released his new album Based On a True Story, which sold 250,000 copies. At the end of that year Zeebra started his first Japan tour, the first hip-hop event to sell out. In 2001 Zeebra released the single “Never Enuff”, the theme song for a Japanese movie called Brother, directed by Takeshi Kitano and starring Claude Maki. In 2002 he temporarily rejoined King Giddra, but has been doing solo work since 2003 and has released many songs. At present, he is producing songs not only for rap artists, but also for pop stars like Namie Amuro.
Hip-hop is now firmly ensconced in the Japanese music scene, to the extent that it is even heard as background music. This would probably not have happened without Zeebra, who is often considered the originator of the Japanese hip-hop scene.
Official Website: http://www.zeebra.jp/