On The Record: Shing02
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Whether it be in English or Japanese, rocking a crowd has always been part of the hip-hop equation for Shingo Annen.
Known affectionately in underground circles by his MC alias, Shing02, his proficiency to drop knowledge and bring clarity to social and environmental issues shows he takes his craft seriously.
”I respect people who achieve success on a commercial level, but to me, you have to balance that with critical acclaim and you have to be your harshest critic,” he said. “Hip-hop started as a counter-culture and always should be, no matter how commercialized the term has become. I think the person portraying the art must become the definition (of hip-hop), physically and mentally.”
The California MC, producer and director will be at Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s Saturday with Los Angeles-based lyricist and acclaimed freestyle rapper Dumbfoundead.
“He’s very prolific in his freestyles and he’s a dynamic character himself,” Shing02 said of his his Korean counterpart. “I’m definitely more of a chill artist type but I try to create a voice within the mood of the song.”
Abstract rap lyrics are just one of the avenues his messages use to reach fans. Best known in the United States for his “Luv(Sic)” series of songs about love, parting and uniting, Shingo raps fluently in English and Japanese — but never both tongues in the same song, a practice that resulted from his parents never allowing him to mix English and Japanese in conversation.
Shing02, who moved to the Bay Area as a teen after living in Tanzania, London and Japan, studied engineering at UC-Berkeley and has shared his views at TED Tokyo and the Red Bull Music Academy. He’s found sharing his opinions often results in increased awareness and positive change. It’s his way of giving back to the culture.
“At the end of the day, you realize that whatever inspires you might inspire somebody else too, so you try to keep that motivation as honest as possible,” he said.
He credited a dream he had many years ago where he got a parking ticket as helping to define his responsibility as a hip-hop artist, an approach he applies to all areas of creativity.
“I was extremely upset,” he recalled feeling in his dream. “Then an MC that I highly respected appeared (in the dream) and (said), ‘Hey, you can write a song about it. Remember to write not only about your own experience, but also the anger of every single person who ever got a parking ticket.’
“That has stuck with me ever since. Challenging yourself constantly to do something new is almost like being an athlete. People might already be satisfied with what you do, but if you stop evolving that’s when you stop being creative.”
Shing02 currently splits time between Oahu, L.A. and Japan, but hopes to relocate to Hawaii full-time by year’s end. After spending nearly 25 years living in California and New York, he said it was time to move.
“I did a 180 and chose Hawaii because of the weather and the local scene,” he said. “We as freelancers can make it work anywhere as long as we travel, but Hawaii is a completely different world while still living in the U.S.”
The last time he performed in Honolulu was the summer of 2010, but he remembers his first show here at Don Ho’s at Aloha Tower Marketplace in 2004. His favorite reggae band, Ooklah the Moc, was part of the event.
“I really respect the history and culture here,” he said. “I like visiting the Pu’uhonua o Waimanalo, they have a lot of projects going on and it’s an experience to speak to Bumpy Kanehele.”
Shing02 has explored all of his creative endeavors as an independent artist and said he wouldn’t have it any other way. He also expresses himself through animation and film, having released “Petals of Fire,” an animated short about peace and compassion. The premise of “then-n-now” revolves around the isolating effects of technology. Both shorts have no spoken words, leaving the content totally up to audience interpretation.
His most recent short film, “Bustin’,” addresses a 60-year-old Japanese law that prohibits an establishment from operating a dance floor after midnight or 1 a.m.
“Although the Tokyo club scene is famous for going all night, it’s always been interpreted as illegal by the police and they’ve been enforcing it randomly the past several years,” said Shingo. “Now the government is moving towards modifying the law. How the police (will) react to it is another story, so we’d have to wait and see.