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Rappers Rinne, Kubota Kai & Anatsume Featured in Billboard Japan & TikTok’s ‘Next Fire’ December Edition

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The December edition of Billboard Japan and TikTok’s hybrid program Next Fire featured a fresh roster of Rooftop artists including Anatsume, Kubota Kai, and award-winning rapper Rinne.

Next Fire is a show on TikTok Live that highlights the rising J-pop artists of the moment, based on Billboard Japan’s TikTok Weekly Top 20 chart. The collaborative project streams live performances and pre-recorded interviews by the featured act of the month to give fans an in-depth look at their artistry.

Rising rapper Anatsume was the first to appear in the studio decorated with a Christmas tree and lights for the December mini-festival. He kicked off his three-song set with “Stay True,” a song with lyrics that touch on the theme of determination expressed through the young rapper’s gentle voice over an airy sound. Next, he brought out a special guest, the vocalist Ai from the all-female band Haku, for a performance of the collaborative track “Aoi tobari” that features the band. “This song is about a precious time in your life and your youth,” said Anatsume before the male-female vocals depicted a wistful, sentimental scene that tugged at viewers’ heartstrings.

The 19-year-old artist closed his showcase set with “Tokyo no Fuyu” (Winter in Tokyo), a song based on the ABEMA romantic reality show he appeared in called Koisuru Weekend Homestay 2020 Winter Tokyo. “The next will be my last song,” he said, introducing the number. “It’s a really valuable song for me because it let me meet a lot of people. I wrote it for the person I was in love with when I was in high school.” The warm, genuine lyrics and the feel-good groove got the audience swaying naturally.

Anatsume
Anatsume

Next up was Kubota Kai, who took over the stage and immediately launched into the up-tempo and funky “Midnight Dancing.” The young artist hyped up the audience with his speedy rapping over the powerful groove from his backing guitar and keyboards, while drawing them in with his boisterous stage presence. Kubota — his name is stylized in Japanese order, surname first — then slowed things down a bit with a performance of “Seikatsu,” accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar. As the title suggests, the lyrics depict the minutiae of daily life over a gentle track. Kubota finished his set with his hit song “Piasu” (Pierced Earrings) that charted on the TikTok Weekly Top 20 for four weeks in a row. Many viewers seemed familiar with this song that showcases Kubota’s versatile vocal techniques, and the speed of the comments being sent in visibly increased during the performance.

Kubota Kai
Kubota Kai

Last but not least on the roster was rapper Rinne, who kicked off his set with “heaven town.” The Japan Record Awards New Artist winner for 2020 then segued into “Blue Diary,” performing twosongs off his latest album cloud achoo back-to-back. The melodious chorus exuding emotion in its tranquility left a lasting impression.

The 24-year-old then took a moment to introduce himself and his backing DJ, ShunMaruno, and addressed the audience watching the livestream. “I first came across the incredible culture of hip-hop and rap through my cell phone, kind of like today’s TikTok. I’m sure you’ll also find your own thing through such means someday,” he said. “My buddies from the same agency are here today. We’ve made a lot of history together, and I’m looking forward to  performing with them tonight.”

Rinne first invited Kubota Kai back into the studio. “‘Kubokai’ and I have been friends for a long time,” he shared about his label mate. “Ever since we first met at a freestyle rap battle, the timing for everything we do has been the same, like our first concerts and the like.” The two rappers performed “Haru ni furarete” (Dumped in Spring), a collaborative track released last year featuring catchy rap phrases that highlight the differences in their styles and a chorus that displays the chemistry of their voices.

Then Rinne brought back Anatsume for a performance of “raspberry,” also a collaboration from last year. The bright and cheerful beat featuring brass and other instruments filled the studio with a cheery vibe.

Before the next song, Rinne paused again to encourage fans. “Four or five years ago, I was the one doing the chasing, but now I have a junior colleague like Anatsume and a friend like Kubokai. My old dreams are coming true little by little,” he said. “But what led to my current position was just a tiny opportunity that was lying right at my feet. So if you’re a younger person watching TikTok now, or someone my age, or even someone older, I think it’d be a waste to give up on your dreams too soon. The reason why I say this is because many of my own dreams have come true, partly by luck and partly by coincidence. Like recently, I was asked to write theme song for a TV drama series. It’s a dream that came true thanks to everyone’s support. I was so moved when I was offered the opportunity.”

He then performed the theme he wrote for the NTV drama series Sister, entitled “qualia.” The lyrics, which he said he made a little easier to listen to while retaining the emotional weight of the suspenseful drama depicting a messy love triangle, was delivered over a melodious track.

The last number of the evening was Rinne’s biggest hit to date, “snow jam” from 2020. “I met so many people through this song and I’m still singing it like this. I hope this winter becomes a wonderful one for you all,” he said before performing the smash hit, which struck a chord with students during the early days of the pandemic. Viewers shared their excitement in hearing the live version of the number perfect for winter, featuring a chill vibe that makes you want to lose yourself in the laid-back flow of sound.

A pre-recorded interview by Rinne, Kubota Kai, and Anatsume will stream on Billboard Japan’s TikTok channel (https://www.tiktok.com/@billboard_japan). Excerpts from the Dec. 9 livestream can be seen on each artist’s TikTok account.

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