How Do You Like It So Far uses pop culture to take soundings of a society in transition, exploring intersections with civic imagination and engagement, and social and political change. Henry Jenkins and Colin Maclay are your guides on this adventure.

Episode 77: From Hip Hop to TikTok with Dexter Thomas

This week we welcome Japanese Hip Hop scholar and reporter for Vice News, Dexter Thomas, and we talk a little bit about Vice News but mostly about Dexter’s outsider approach to journalism and the freedom he feels as a Black reporter at Vice in not being obligated to maintain the myth of a neutral perspective. Dexter shares his path to Vice, from college DJ to PhD in Asian Studies at Columbia University, freelance writer to the LA Times. We dive into hip hop music and culture in Japan, from its right-wing nationalist strains to its complicated relationship to Blackness, American imperialism and Black politics. That brings us to the hypersegmented world of TikTok, how today’s internet can be seen as isolating and reducing common language but also allows for new community and voice…and as powerful a space for activism as the streets. Ultimately, we come to a place of hope in our current moment, seeing the opportunity to acknowledge things that have been broken in America for a long time, and making it clearer that nothing will move forward without work.

As a closing thought, we point you to the bonus minisodes we’ll be releasing while we’re on semester break – “What’s Making Us Sappy” – where we share recent guests’ media recommendations to broaden your winter watch/read/play/listen list.

Check back soon for a full transcript of this episode at the bottom of this page!

Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Some Japanese cultural references mentioned in this episode:
Tokyo destinations: Takadanobaba, Akihabara, Yoyogi Park
Kogyaru fashion (including deep tanning)
Nanking Massacre

Books mentioned in this episode:
Hip-Hop Japan by Ian Condry
The Soul of Anime by Ian Condry
Blue Nippon by Taylor Atkins
Race for Citizenship by Helen Heran Jun

Music featured in this episode:
Gauze (Japanese Hard Punk)
Zeebra, Street Dreams (Japanese Hip Hop)
SUNDAY SCHOOL, Lucien Hughes (Vaporwave)
Last Summer Whisper, Anri (City Pop)

Activism on TikTok

Some background on 4Chan

2020 protests in Portland

Dexter’s Vice reporting

Listen to our “What’s Making Us Sappy” minisodes – make sure you subscribe to get the latest!

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour

Henry’s recommendations:
Utopia (2020, Amazon, based on an earlier British show)
The Good Lord Bird (Showtime)

Share your thoughts via Twitter with Henry, Colin and the How Do You Like It So Far? account! You can also email us at [email protected].

“In Time” by Dylan Emmett and “Spaceship” by Lesion X.
In Time (Instrumental) by Dylan Emmet
Spaceship by Lesion X
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