Alluring Chanmina gets a good rap

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A mysterious, bewitching aura radiates from Chanmina, but she appears very approachable when she flashes her huge smile.

The rapper/singer is immensely popular with younger people, and her latest album, entitled “Harenchi,” has done well since Warner Music Japan released it in October.

I sat down with Chanmina to learn more about her music and also dig into the reasons behind her popularity.

Born in 1998, Chanmina made her debut with a major label in 2017 with the release of “FXXKER.” She gained additional attention with her second album, “Never Grow Up,” in 2019.

“Bijin” (A beauty), a single released in April last year, is still very popular on music streaming services and YouTube.

She is also known for collaborations with various artists such as the well-known group Genie High.

In every respect, Chanmina is one of the leading artists of the next generation in music.

“This is something that had been determined from the very start — before I ever made a single decision,” Chanmina said. “I mean, when I was so young that I can’t remember, I already had the dream of becoming an artist. Everything I’ve done in life has been to achieve this goal.”

Her parents told her that when she was only 1½ years old, she would say, “I want to be a singer,” even though she couldn’t speak much.

“I have no memory of that. I don’t know exactly what made me have the desire,” she said. “I’ve just been pushed forward, driven by this passion bubbling up inside me.”

She was all in on ballet when she was an elementary school student. However, one day, as she was slowly getting changed after her lesson, the next class was starting. She and her classmates sported leotards, but the next class had very different attire.

It was a hip-hop class, and the students were all in loose-fitting clothes.

“What’s that?” she thought in amazement at her first exposure to the genre. “I was so interested, I just kept watching. They looked so cool,” she said.

As soon as she got home, she asked her parents to let her switch to the hip-hop class.

They said OK, and the rest is history.

She came to like Western pop music through such artists as Lady Gaga, Beyonce and NE-YO, and naturally learned how to sing fast-tempo songs. She then came across the music by South Korean boy band BIGBANG. She was amazed with their style of performing both songs and rap. She began writing music, at first emulating their style.

Cover of the album “Harenchi”

Chanmina also learned how to use music production software and regularly went to a community center for children where she made music on equipment there.

“When I was in high school, my mind was always on the kind of music I wanted to make, even during classes,” she said with a chuckle.

She progressed in hip-hop, eventually participating in a rap competition for high school students in 2016, garnering wide acclaim.

Continuity in 3rd album

“Harenchi” (which translates as “shameless”) is her third full-length album.

“Up to that point, I’d taken any given moment and made it into a song, but I naturally understood all along that I would change over time,” Chanmina said.

“But this album is full of things that convey the fact that I’ll continue to have the same feelings, or that this is who I am.”

Up until her 20th birthday, she always had a genuine connection with music and captured herself in each moment through song. Since picking up more experience, she has finally started to gain more self-awareness.

“I thought about what I like and don’t like. For example, food I don’t like such as mekabu [a part of wakame seaweed] and horumon [innards]. I thought about why I don’t like them and gradually realized that I just don’t like weird stuff.”

A little more than two years after the release of the previous album, she had a better understanding of herself and was subsequently able to create an album that conveyed who she is, sort of like a business card.

As a young child, she spent time living in Japan, the United States and South Korea. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, she has spent all of the past two years in Tokyo. The experience is a first for the entertainer.

“In Japan, there is J-Pop. I always lived in the atmosphere, saw the scenery and interacted with people. This experience had a big impact on my music,” she said.

Those experiences resulted in “Harenchi” being the title track on the album.

“I wanted to make a song that sounds like Japanese pop music,” Chanmina said. “In particular, I wanted to create something like a [classic] neon sign or something typical of the Heisei era [1989-2019].”

It’s an up-tempo tune with a melancholic touch.

She created the song alone on a keyboard, singing by herself, rather than her usual process of making and refining each song together with a producer and staff in a studio.

Upon its completion, she decided to make the song the core of the album. She had already picked out the album title, “Harenchi.” She initially titled the song, “Masui” (Anesthesia). But as soon as she finished it, she decided to name it with the album title.

I asked her why she chose the word “harenchi” for the album.

“It’s a Japanese word, but I feel it somehow sounds English. It also has a cosmopolitan feel, don’t you think?” she shot back. “It also comes with a bit of an erotic and naughty connotation. Whatever I do, people have this image of me, too. But it’s part of my personality, and I don’t hate it,” she quickly added.