Inspired by her mixed heritage, Chanmina embraced both cultures. (Illustration by James O'Toole, Grande Valley State University)
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A fierce, multilingual, female rapper? Yes, please.

There’s J-pop, and there’s K-pop. Put the two together and what do you get? Chanmina.

Breaking into the scene back in 2016, the feisty rapper has flipped the rap game on its head. Not only does she have the flow to any beat thrown at her, she has the lyrics and aesthetics to match. But in a largely growing population of fierce, female rappers, why does Chanmina stand out so much?

Born in South Korea, Otomonai Mina, also known as Chanmina, found much of her inspiration from her mixed heritage — her father is Japanese, and her mother is Korean. Chanmina never hesitated to embrace either culture, as she spent much of her childhood bouncing back and forth between the two.

Her penchant for music and songwriting came to her in high school, where she began to take composing seriously. The high school she was attending hosted a rap-battle tournament on a regular basis, and in 2016 Chanmina decided she would strut her stuff. Although she didn’t win the battle, her energetic style of rapping caught the eye of talent scouts, which eventually led to her current music label.

The young rapper credits her mother, who happened to be a professional ballerina, for her early interest in the arts. Chanmina’s exposure to this world led her to follow in her mother’s footsteps for some time, diligently attending ballet classes and practicing on her own. What changed was her discovery that a hip-hop class was being held at the same time in the same studio; in that moment, Chanmina’s world changed.

Her first released single, “Mirror,” topped the iTunes charts in hip hop, laying down the path to further success. It wasn’t always an easy decision for her, as she is outspoken about the initial struggles she faced choosing between Korea and Japan for their entertainment industries.  “I probably would have ended up being a K-pop idol,” the 20-year-old told The Japan Times. “It’s hard to make a career as a solo act in Korea.”

Still, Chanmina is openly embracing her mixed heritage, and even has a tattoo that interweaves the Japanese and Korean flags on one of her arms.

Chanmina has also mentioned that K-pop was a source of comfort for her back when she was mocked for not being fluent in Japanese. “Actually, my first show ever was Bigbang at Budokan … I was just looking up in awe,” she told The Japan Times.

Further underscoring her mixed heritage, Chanmina has released a single, titled “I’m a Pop,” which she recorded in Japanese, English and Korean. “There has been a lot of collaboration between Japanese and Korean artists recently,” she said, “but in my case, I’m one artist doing both at the same time.”

In terms of her music, Chanmina works with a variety of sounds. Her single “Lady” incorporates a lighter, more generic beat, with raspier vocals to accentuate the song, while “FXXXKER” is a lot more intense and in your face, showcasing the hard-hitting side of the artist with her screaming the profanity as part of the chorus.

One of her most popular songs was released just last year. The song, “Doctor,” is meant to illustrate the frustrations Chanmina has with social media and the lack of sincerity she finds on the internet. “I’m tired of hearing it all / I’m tired of seeing this trend / This is no flavor syndrome / You guys have no taste, hey,” she raps.

In the video, the rapper goes to a “doctor” to see if there is anything wrong with her for feeling this way. It’s a jab at society, one that many fans are impressed by, citing her genuine nature and fearlessness as inspiring.

She hopes to expand her audience from beyond Japan, but she’s grateful already for the reception she’s had. “It was, after all, the first country to acknowledge me as an artist,” she said.

While Japan has the number one spot in her heart, Chanmina has plenty more countries to woo on her path to being an international phenomenon.

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