Mashing GUNDAM up with hip hop style, the free digital album THE WING ZERO EP made a Mobile Suit-sized impression on anime fandom when it touched down a couple weeks back. Having thoroughly enjoyed the jams, myself, I figured I'd reach out to MC Richie Branson, the man behind the musical mecha mayhem, and get some insight on his unique flavor of nerdcore.
Here's how our conversation spun out...
ANIME VICE: I've found it best to let interviewees do their own intros. So Richie, who are you and just what is your deal?
RICHIE BRANSON: I'm just a guy who likes to rap about video games and anime. I've been an industry music producer for about three years, producing music for major labels such as Def Jam, Ruff Ryders, G-Unit, etc. I started rapping a year and a half ago after being told by a lot of people that I'd never make it as a rapper because I was too nerdy.
AV: I'm sure you've got a good answer for this. Anime and hip-hop - - unusual tag-team partners at first glance. What secret connection makes them a championship duo, though?
RB: I think both anime and hip-hop have a natural appeal to people's imagination. I was hooked to GUNDAM because I could totally imagine myself piloting a kickass mobile suit. Likewise, I'll jam Rick Ross because I can definitely imagine myself as a big time drug dealer/maybach owner taking trips to Dubai... just kidding.
All jokes aside, I think when you combine anime and hip-hop, you get something awesome that people can relate to.
AV: Mixing Western music with anime goes at least as far back as the time Gainax used an E.L.O. song for their DAICON IV debut video. Leiji Matsumoto's also had plenty of fun with Daft Punk and Queen. Which Pan-Pacific collaborations have made the biggest impression on you?
AV: You talk a little trash about other MC's, embarrassed otakus and assorted wannabees on this LP, so... we're going to have to ask you to prove your GUNDAM cred here.
RB: GUNDAM WING was my first real experience as an anime fan. As a teen, I ordered up a few action figures of my favorite Mobile Suits, specifically all three incarnations of the Tallgeese. My habit of collecting Gundam action figures would eventually evolve into building a few Gunpla models in college.
I used to street race pretty heavily and would often combine my GUNDAM fandom with my racing habits. I was probably the only racer with a red 400hp mitsubishi eclipse GSX nicknamed "Epyon." Haha...
I've watched a lot of other GUNDAM franchises as well. My favorites are: G GUNDAM (they need to make a STREET FIGHTER-esque video game adaptation ASAP!), GUNDAM 00, 0083 STARDUST MEMORY, CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK and 08TH MS TEAM.
I've been watching the GUNDAM UNICORN series as well, and so far it's the best GUNDAM series I've seen in awhile. UNICORN's soundtrack is pretty dope... reminds me of Hans Zimmer's work. In fact, I've made a couple of beats with samples from the soundtrack.
AV: Maybe you can't necessarily build a tour entirely around GUNDAM raps, but are you thinking of bringing these tracks to the people at any live venues this year? Maybe some conventions?
RB: I definitely have a few conventions in my sights this year, I'm really hoping to rock my hometown's San-Japan convention later this year. Also, I'm very serious about doing some shows in Japan with this whole Gundam thing, I think there may be a good audience out there for it.
RB: Well... I'll admit I've got a few beats in my catalogue based on the GUNDAM UC soundtrack. Hopefully I'll get a chance to put them to use sooner than later!
I also have a little something in the works based on INITIAL D.
RB: I'd have to say for second place, it's a tie between MACROSS and VOLTRON. EVANGELION is a very, very close third.
AV: Maybe you've heard of the Gundam Café in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood. They have a dish called “Gun-Pla-Yaki” that’s in the shape of the first GUNDAM model kit. As a hardcore fan, is the thought of eating what's basically a fried plastic figurine more or less appetizing to you, personally?
RB: I'd totally grub on some Gun-Pla-Yaki -- hell, I'd even take pictures of the plate! In fact, I'm really trying to make the trip out to Tokyo before year's end so I can visit that cafe and the giant Gundam statue as well!
AV: Finally, what's next around the corner for Richie Branson? Where can the hordes of fans find out about it?
RB: I'm working on a GUNDAM-inspired techno/trance/dubstep/EDM instrumental remix project called "Project Epyon" coming soon.
Also, I've been recording some music for a yet-unnamed project that will be available for purchase so I can make a few bucks to get to Tokyo!
The WING ZERO album really got me back into nostalgia-mode as far as Toonami is concerned...so be on the lookout for a song reflecting on Toonami as a whole.
You can keep up to date by following me on twitter @richiebranson or visiting my website at www.richiebranson.com
AV: Thanks for your time, Richie!