G.Yamazawa is a Japanese American rapper and poet. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, NPR, PBS, and has toured over 200 universities both domestic and internationally. With notable performances at the Sundance Film Festival and the Pentagon, G continues to challenge the American perspective of race & culture, poetry & rap, and the phenomena of the human condition. G's debut album "Shouts to Durham," charted at #37 on the iTunes top 100 rap albums. He is a National Poetry Slam Champion.
The Japanese American was raised in Durham, North Carolina, growing up without an Asian-American community meant Yamazawa searched elsewhere for identity, finding it in '90s hip-hop long before he found it in poetry. He started experimenting with poetry at 13 after a friend died, but didn't get into competitive poetry until he was 17. In between, Yamazawa’s strict Japanese father fell ill to leukemia and the teenage He was left more to his own devices, leading to an anti-authority streak and expulsion from high school for smoking and selling marijuana. Wandering through continuation school and then community college was formative for Yamazawa. In community college, he discovered hybrid performers like Black Ice, introducing him to the concept of performative poetry.
He continues honing his gift as a wordsmith by sharing his love for poetry. He shared that being on stage and performing poetic pieces gave him the confidence to face an audience by himself. Learning how to be comfortable with silence and artistic tension, combined with the use of vocal dynamics were crucial elements cultivated onstage. The Durham poets are a very tight knit community, who always push each other to be forward thinkers and to strive for artistic excellence. So the transition to Hip hop had to be G’s destiny.
He began touring on the slam poetry circuit, performing with the Durham team The Sacrificial Poets, which he helped start.
He made just enough in nightly tips and take to keep the tour going.
It wasn't much, he said, but he found his calling.
Soon after his first tour in 2010, He moved from Durhama to Washington, D.C. and dove into the city’s poetry scene. This was another formative period for Yamazawa — his first big city, his first big heartbreak, and a big pool of creatives to workshop his style. Touring also gave him a chance to explore the country, and in turn, explore his Asian-American identity. Exposure to large Asian-American communities in Los Angeles and other parts of California were impactful, but he was wholly unprepared for the massive Asian-American crowd in Hawaii.
Topping his time in Washington, D.C. was his first great professional achievement in 2014: beating out 71 other teams to win the National Poetry Slam with his D.C. team, Beltway Poetry Slam. Basking in the victory, Beltway Poetry Slam founder Sarah Lawson pointed out that the social justice themes in their poetry resonated. During the competition, Yamazawa performed a poem about using the word "gay" as an insult.
As he turned 24, Yamazawa felt the call for hip-hop again.
Things had changed since he first experimented with the art form in high school.
In 2005, Hip hop for Yamazawa was image-based, and he felt that he would have had to compromise who he was if he wanted to gain attention. But Yamazawa points to the rise of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco as a softening of Hip hop, a shift in the genre toward engaging emotions and masculine fragility.
In 2014, Yamazawa packed up and moved to Los Angeles to transition into recording as a hip-hop artist. Naturally, Yamazawa’s influences in the hip-hop industry came mostly from the South, T.I. and Outkast were major influences; however, G speaks very highly of Lil’ Jon and his ‘crunk’ music era as well. Listening to G talk about these artists that he grew up listening to you can understand his attraction to artists who give their fans lush soundscapes that, with only about two verses and a chorus, put them in the moment.
After touring the country on the more prestigious college circuit of poetry performance, He released his first hip-hop EP in February 2016 after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The first track on his self-titled EP, “Dining Room”, tells how He grew up working alongside his family in their sushi restaurant.
Yamazawa’s parents were strict, his father especially, a “Tiger dad” who had a heavy hand: When he was in fifth grade, He was briefly sent to foster care when his father hit him too hard.
His parents required As in school and pushed Yamazawa to become a doctor or lawyer, if not take over the restaurant, but they knew he wanted a different life.
in 2017, He released his debut project Shouts to Durham after being on the road and travelling for the year. Shouts To Durham is a concept album for G. His goal for this project was to be the album of choice when you’re in your car looking for good riding music. The album opens with “Highway 751,” a jazzy ode to the main thoroughfare in the City of Durham. The following track entitled “North Cack,” is one of the more popular tracks on the album. G’s lyrics on this track take you back to a time when life was much simpler, and the hook oozes Durham. Other album standouts include the cool and mellow “Ego Trip,” the gut-punching “What It Is,” and “What’s Good” will definitely test your bass capacity of your car speakers. Yamazawa, a sports enthusiast, loves all the greats and like those greats, he is also competitive and is constantly striving for distinction. Shouts to Durham reflects that spirit.
In October 2018, Yamazawa released his second album, Money Is Time. In the album,one could see the collaboration between Japanese and English song like in Buri Buri, the song featured Japanese rappers Miyachi and Pablo Blasta. He clearly show his identity in the album even though hip hop was originated by the African-American people.
G. Yamazawa has an encouraging following on his social media platforms because of the size of his fan base.