I am not the best person to be doing this little featurette. I’m still under informed, and in many ways under educated on the subject myself. My platform is small, but I’d really like to help showcase that Japan, by however small amounts and no matter how long it takes, that the image of Japan is changing. In my own way, through my love of the music label LDH (Love Dream and Happiness) Entertainment, who have no only some of the most talented people in the current Jpop scene, but also is a label that celebrates diversity in a positive and uplifting way.
Before getting too far ahead of myself, let’s take a quick peek at Elly’s background.
Birthday: September 21st, 1987
Birthplace: Aomori, Japan
Debut: 2010 with Sandaime J Soul Brothers from EXILE TRIBE
Key Timeline Moments
-after debuting in Sandaime J Soul Brothers, he began choreographing seriously and has done several dances for JSB and other labelmates
-2015, he debuted in acting with the lead role in the movie “TRASH”
-2016, on Sandaime J Soul Brother’s “Feel So Alive” Elly rapped for the first time in JSB
-2016, he was ‘Ice’ in the LDH mult-media project “HiGH&LOW”, in both the drama and movies
-February 2017, he debuted as a solo rapper under the name as ‘CRAZYBOY’ his first EP “NEOTOKYO EP”
-February 2018, he collaborated with Snoop Dogg and PKCZ’s called “Bow Down”
-Later that same year he completed a full solo tour entitled “CRAZYBOY presents NEOTOKYO ~ The Private Party 2018”
At the time of blogging, he currently has four digital only EP’s and a slew of collaboration tracks as well. For more information regarding his current management and more information please check out his official artist profile. If you’re curious for him on SNS, you can check him out on Instagram.
I have a love hate with Elly to be honest. He has been has been going a ton of fantastic stuff for himself, and in regard for hafu in Japan. However, at the same time he has done a shit ton of stuff that’s ‘excusable in Japan’, especially since he’s hafu. Being realistic, if he pulled any of those stunts in America or otherwise, he would’ve been slapped at least once and more likely laughed at. I won’t dig too much into that because we as fans have dragged him enough over the years.
A bit more background is that he half black and half Japanese, his mother being Japanese. In a big surprise to me when I first found out, he’s actually from Aomori Prefecture, where I currently live! Originally went to Tokyo on a baseball scholarship to college. However, he ended up falling in love with dance and ended up quitting baseball and college to pursue it with LDH in Sandaime J Soul Brothers.
Speaking specifically of dance, that’s my favorite thing and probably the most iconic things Elly can be credited with outside of CRAZYBOY. Before pursing being a soloist, choreographing was his main bread and butter within LDH. He’s choreographed the absolutely viral dance from Sandaime’s “R.Y.U.S.E.I”, as well “JSB Dream” and “Hanabi” just to name a few more. He’s additionally choreographed EXILE Atsushi’s “Make a Miracle”, EXILE SHOKICHI’s “Don’t Stop the Music”, and Doberman Infinity’s “Ga Ga Summer”.
Seriously, that’s just the surface of his talent and depth. There’s quite a few more songs that he’s done for JSB, and I’m certain there’s more within company stuff he’s done as well. I never doubted Elly’s talents as a dancer and choreographer. It’s really what drew me towards him, and seriously follow him not only within the group but as a individual. Which naturally lead me to Elly’s, or CRAZYBOY’s, as is his stage name as a soloist, debatable solo career.
Being 100% honest; a lot of his music is rather generic, especially his initial releases. Don’t get me wrong, these tracks are catchy and fun. They do lack staying power, and between the much stronger releases of his label mates, they got quite a bit lost in the sea of similar sounding rappers in Japan. Retrospectively, his first EP would have been quite the summer time banger if I had been more into it.
Somehow, the main problem is that Elly has a problem with his labelmates. Not drama or fighting, but that Elly gets drowned out in his own songs. All the collaborators on Elly’s tracks tend to out shine Elly himself for example- Verbal and Sway absolutely bulldozed him in “Claptime”. His fellow JSB member Imachi Ryuji outshone him in “No More Cry” off the second EP. It’s a weird issue to have when you’re part of a talent agency but your collaborators steal your spotlight.
Personally, I think Elly is trying to hard to replicate being a western rapper, that he fails to deliver a sincere approach to himself and his music. I know that is partly due a bit of identity crisis of sorts with his identity as ‘CRAZYBOY’ and who he is as ‘Elly’. A lot of Elly’s stuff just feels like a watered down version of a lot of American rappers. Which, for Japanese fans works and works well. He charted for four weeks for a reason. As a Western fan, this replication of an American rapper just leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
I just wanted Elly back a lot of the time, and it seems that slowly peeling some layers back; we might have found him.
In “This is for Mama”, we get a better glimpse of ‘Elly’ not “CRAZYBOY”. Obviously, seeing him as a baby is cute and charming. The whole point of this series is to point out; this wasn’t easy for him.
I can’t emphasize that show biz is a hard world, and for hafu any struggle they face is twice as bad. When he was considering dropping his scholarship to dance, it was a several week consideration. The few times he’s opening up about it, you can tell he’s still not quite sure if he made the right choice or not (I would argue he did but who knows?).
The soul of CRAZYBOY, Elly finally gets to peek out in this track. Not only in home videos, but the scaled back instrumentation and simplified imagery. There’s no light trickery, or scenes of super lavish lifestyle (aside the damn rock on his hand). It’s Elly, as CRAZYBOY recording in the studio. It’s Elly showing up to see his mom, someone who struggled just as much and in some ways even more then he, and bringing his younger brother Likiya (who btw is in The Rampage from EXILE TRIBE just fyi) all together for a moment. Behind all the fame, international travel, collaborations, tours, is a family that struggled in a world where they weren’t suppose to be successful or be in the spotlight. It’s really touching.
I had a lot more to say then previous posts, but I’m a lot more invested in him I suppose. Mostly with him as Elly in JSB, since they were one of the first JPop groups I seriously followed. Additionally, he’s also the first hafu I ever knew about in Japan that was widely well accepted and considered popular. (No shame to Crystal or Nesmith just me) I’m not sure where he’s going with his music most of the time but it’s been an interesting ride.