This video by Kanye West is for Stronger, a song which charted at #1 in the US (among other countries) in 2007. Over the course of my project, I have looked at the various ways that Japanese hip hop has borrowed from American and American hip hop culture, but here is a very prominent example of an American artist borrowing imagery and tropes from Japan and Japanese artists.
One way to look at this phenomena is that it is cultural appropriation. Many of the katakana West uses in the video are nonsensical, and the dress of the sexy dancer is uncomfortably ‘schoolgirl’-ish (a facet of Japanese pop culture that has nothing to do with “Akira,” the film that this video bases itself off of). Indeed, West’s video, at times, comes off as an amalgam of cultural references to Japan that aren’t thoroughly researched.
That being said, I also thought the video’s imagery was very persuasive. Its recreations of the Akira scenes as well as the protest scenes carried an immediacy that an inept caricature of Japanese culture would not have. West utilizes these images to suggest his struggle with social constructs like the press as a black artist, Although not always fully sensible with his use of Japanese imagery, I still felt that the power of it validated that imagery rather than disrespected it.