Born Hideaki Ishi in Tokyo, DJ Krush is one of the world’s most acclaimed electronic music artists and producers. He first made his name in hip-hop in the 1980s as the founder of Krush Posse, and his style now transcends category much like his idol Miles Davis, who dropped the “jazz” label for “music” in the late 1960s.
Continuing his world tour, DJ Krush plays at The MID in Chicago tonight (Feb 21). In this exclusive interview conducted Sunday backstage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn (his first New York City gig in four years), I spoke with the artist during sound check about his two decades as a solo artist, his shocking yakuza past, and this thoughts on the future of music.
Last year you celebrated your 20th anniversary as a solo artist. What did it mean to you?
It’s endless—I didn’t expect it would last this long, so when I realized that it was now 20 years I was surprised. My history as a DJ is 25 years, but I’ve been a solo artist for 20 years.
Before you began your career you became involved with the yakuza. Did having this reputation make it difficult to enter or be successful in the music business at first?
I didn’t want to mimic American style hip-hop; I wanted to create a style unique from everyone else. At first, I didn’t have a good reputation and they wanted to attack me, so it was really tough.
What are the central differences between Japanese and American hip-hop?
The style is the same, but the culture, lifestyle and background is different. It’s tricky to explain, but the differences are there.