Graduation is my favorite Kanye album, so Tokyo has always fascinated me. Why did hip-hop artists like Kanye and Pharrell flock to this city? It all made sense when I listened to Graduation while walking around Tokyo: the city has a magnetic energy, and those who dive into the culture bring that magnetism back wherever they’re from. And in the midst of it all, hip-hop is emerging from the shadows. "It's no longer the case that the bad kids listen to this music ," says local artist DJ Nacocamelia. "Hip-hop is becoming something that's considered cool and interesting by many people."

It's electric. The Japanese language flows like a Hokusai wave, slicing through the light and airy beats that gives the music its regional flavor. Tokyo is just cool, period.  When hip-hop first [appeared]...back in the '70s and '80s, people got to be a part of this new genre-building," says Brandun DeShay, an American artist living in Tokyo. "That's the same kind of excitement I feel here in Japan... it's like the punk era, it's definitely bubbling."