Last summer, through the Facebook group, Black Creatives Japan, I met “hip-hop savvy listener” Mega. With his co-hosts Late and Steze, they produce The Mega Late Show. It might very well be one of the only English speaking hip-hop podcast in Japan. Mega gave me props on “The 20 Best Hip-Hop Guest Verses of All Time,” an LA Weekly listicle that I contributed to.
“Man, how could you leave out Cappadonna’s verse off of Ghostface Killah’s ‘Winter Warz?’” he asked me. “That was the only problem I had with that list.” If Mega hadn’t got at me about his beef with our “20 Best…Guest Verses” I wouldn’t have known that his podcast existed.
In Tokyo’s Shibuya district with Manhattan Records as the backdrop, Mega and I did what all ex-pats do when they first meet, we, as Loco in Yokohama once put it, speed dated. Talking music and family, we traded truncated stories about what landed us in Japan.
Mega took me to an alleyway where young aspiring Japanese rappers get together and cypher or freestyle. It’s like an outdoor open mic. Among looped 90’s beats and kids rapping in Japanese, Mega concluded that I was “a head” as in “a hip-hop head.” He soon invited me on The Mega Late Show podcast.
I told him that I’d only do it if him and Late did an exclusive TMG mixtape. They each wanted to do their own version, offering me two mixtapes instead of just one. As informed fans of the culture, their musical tastes are as juxtaposing as they are synchronized. Mega champions lesser-known artists. From mainstream to underground, Late is versatile. Rapper and producer Doom would probably be their Mt. Rushmore, uniting them like a crowd going silent, waiting for the heat holding Metal Face to preach non-violence.
Steze falls closer to Late’s perspective, often bringing up opposing views to instigate passionate discussions. When he’s not co-hosting the podcast, Steze is a filmmaker and working actor. You might catch him in a commercial on Japanese TV.
Below is part 1 of a Q&A I did with the fellas over email. We tried to get together for an in person interview. It was my fault, I had scheduling conflicts. I was working on something and I forgot it was my birthday.
Late’s “Liquid Wards” mix is first up to bat. Peep it below, after the interview. Or check it here. Look for Mega’s mix to drop later.
TMG: How’d you guys meet?
Mega: I met Steze through Instagram. I was searching for pics from somewhere and he popped up. I saw his timeline and he had a lot of dope pics so I followed his account. After a while and a few comments on each other’s accounts, I think we felt some kinship automatically. So he invited me to his wedding. It would be the first time we really chilled in person. I came to the reception late and ended up sitting next to Late.
Steze: There was also a time I ran into Mega and Dahlinger [beat maker and ex-pat living in Japan] before the wedding and after we solidified the online relationship. We were catching the morning train after going out one weekend night and had a solid conversation in person.
I met Late at a bar in Gunma, the area we both first resided when we moved to Japan. We instantly connected after talking highly of Kanye, and chilled a lot out there. We shared an epiphany of moving to Tokyo one night and got mad hyped about it. He had a chance to make the move first, and I followed a year later.
Where are you from?
Mega: Mostly California. Oceanside and San Jose. Born in NY , high school in Hawaii.
Late: Atlanta-ish; if anyone who knows asks, I’m OTP.
Steze: Guåhan, also known as Guam, the island occupied by The United States and abused as a “strategic location.”
How long you known each other?
Mega: Just over 10,000 hours. I’ve known these guys for like a year and a half. Seems longer.
Late: I’ve known Steze going on 4~5 years now.
TMG: When did you fall in love with hip-hop?
Mega: It’s hard for me to pin-point the exact moment. My older sisters always played it and so did my brother-in-law’s. As early as 5 years old I remember one of my sister’s getting me a Beastie Boys poster. My ex-brother-in-law, EP, was also a major influence. He was a hip-hop head and constantly told me why things were great, while also having a crazy CD collection. I heard Words from the Genius (1991) [by GZA of The Wu-Tang Clan] before I heard Liquid Swords because of him. In terms of me actually digging into the culture and becoming more than a passive listener, probably when I started b-boying at age 13.
Late: I’ve always liked rap from listening to the radio and cassette tapes in the backseats of my parents’ cars. I guess I would say it didn’t become my life until around 2000 when I discovered some 2pac albums in the basement and changed my whole shit.
Steze: Bone Thugz “Crossroads” took over MTV and I thought it was the coolest song I had ever heard, then a little later I saw the cover of All Eyez On Me in my Uncle’s room, whom I looked up to. He [his uncle] said Tupac was the man, and after listening, I believed him. So around 95-96.
What inspired Mega Late Show?
Mega: Steze did. For a while we thought it was someone else, but it was definitely Steze. Lol. IIRC, Late and I were talking about how Drill music is kinda like Black folks’ heavy metal/ death metal. Steze said we should do a podcast. I had been wanting to do one for a while and the chemistry seemed perfect. It was all impelled from the backwards shockwave of the eschaton. Meant to be.
Late: I’ve been listening to podcasts almost more than music for the last couple of years and was just really interested in the format. I wasn’t really thinking of starting one, but how it all came to be with all of us just felt like it was always supposed to go.
Steze: MLS means Mega Late Show, and the S also stands for Steze, but it’s cool to keep that relatively unknown because I don’t feel I truly contribute to the show substance-wise. I’m here to produce and bring this to light. I’m like dude behind the camera, the latent part of show business. We know all the actors’ names, some of us know the directors, and hardly any of us know the cinematographers. I used to enjoy only the limelight, but now many times I like the technical aspects where I can only be found if someone looks at the film credits. I may shine sometimes but the real stars are Mega and Late, both in front and behind the camera. I always knew Late was a hip-hop head, and after the three of us chilled the first time, I realized how much Mega was too, and their passion for hip-hop sparked, talking in-depth about the culture in a matter of minutes. I have always loved hip-hop but I have my hands full in so many things that I could never devote myself so deep into it. Listening to these two talk inspired me to help bring MLS to fruition.
Can you talk about the chemistry that you guys have on the show? How do you complement each other’s personality?
Mega: I think each of us have pretty different perspectives and interests in the culture. I’m a true school, 4 Elements, underground/backpacker weird art rap guy. A lot of my blind spots or shit I didn’t pay much attention to in the 2000s, Late and Steze are probably more knowledgeable about.
Late: I grew up in Atlanta(-ish) and my parents were always playing music. Not hip-hop, but I’m used to being around music constantly. After I discovered my love for the culture, I just delved into it. I get pretty obsessive about things so I just started doing research. At first, it was pretty regional, but thankfully, we had a decent Internet connection so I just ingested everything I could. I found a few [hip-hop] forums and sites and just listened to everything I could. I remember one Christmas my dad got me 50+ bootleg CD’s from a list I had made, lol.
Steze: I grew up in Guam, so I honestly grew up on the radio and MTV, and some VH1. Basically our island before the advent of the Internet, was so far attached from the scene (and in many ways still is) that we got what we got through radio and TV. I was never a part of any underground scene, even when I moved to California for college. I enjoyed the mainstream at first and found several low-key artists along the way that spoke to me. I’ve done some homework in going back and listening to what is considered authentic, and I have clung to what speaks to me from all levels of the culture. Listening to Mega and Late speak about underground artists helps to solidify my knowledge of the game. It makes my iPod more eclectic. Also, I have more of a filmmaking background so I can provide visuals for the cause.
Late, what can listeners expect from your mixtape?
Late: I tried to think of it as what I would have wanted to spin the first time I DJ’d, then I also treated it a bit like our “Weather Report” section of the show, where we just play a song we want to talk about so it’s kind of an amalgamation of those things, plus some stuff I just thought blended well. In the future, I may be more thematic, or I may just drop some bangers. I like it all; hopefully you’ll hear something you didn’t know you liked. Shazam that shit. Have a new fave.