Warbling bass and flatlining keys rumble low down, hovering barely above crunchy subs and deep below skittering hi hats as ralph deadpans in threatening flows on his new cut “Ridin’ Mode”. His voice is reserved but cavernous and omnipresent—he’s not one to ask twice. His sound is making waves in the Japanese rap scene and production duo Double Clapperz are responsible for about half of his beats. “‘Ridin’ Mode’ was born in our studio,” Clapperz tell Blaq Lyte. “His audience was growing from nightclubs to fesitval, and we wanted something that could match that scale while retaining our sense of tension and roughness.”
Double Clapperz (otherwise known as UKD and Sinta) made their name in the 2010s as Japan’s advocates for UK grime. They were known in the global underground for representing the British sound as the main outpost in Asia. They were dedicated to the rough digital 140 BPM sound born in the streets of London. They were translating it for Tokyo, throwing small but successful parties on the cities outskirts and were often considered the go-to pair for anyone interested in UK music and Asia. It was this connection that brought them to ralph, an Indonesian-Japanese rapper from the danchi public housing blocks of Tokyo’s suburbs with a similar taste for music.
Double Clapperz have have been ridin’ with ralph since his breakout track “Sha Ni Kamaeru” back in 2017. Since then, they’ve shifted gears and producing beats for him is now their main priority. “We’ve never had an audience this large on our own. Our audience’s enthusiasm is something we never thought possible before,” they say. It’s also changed the way they make music, expanding beyond 140 chunes to incorporating new beat styles and introducing sampling to their process. “It often starts with a concept, usually ralph’s poetry is the starting point. We produce sounds based on the images we get from his writing, then he polishes the lyrics. Sometimes we finish immediately, but sometimes we redo it three or four times until we’re satisfied.”
ralph prefers taking cues from London over the States before making the music his own, often drawing on UK drill and garage sonics for reference. And his crowds are clearly embracing the sounds. But they don’t recognize it as part of a larger conversation. “I don’t think all listeners understand or accept the culture we’re referencing. To them it’s just cool Japanese rap music.”