Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 3 Miss Hitoe from SPEED
Four-member group SPEED’s HITOE (Arakaki Hitoe) announced on her blog, “On April 8th, I registered my marriage with a person I met in New York, and dated for 13 years!”
Miss Hitoe from SPEED – Interview Part 2
Moving To New York
After SPEED disbanded, Miss Hitoe moved to New York in the year of 2000 to find herself.
H2N: When you decided to move to New York, what did you expect, and what goals did you set for your new life?
Hitoe: I was telling myself, “The end is a new beginning. Let’s do the things I always wanted to do.” I started to take a series of classes like art, English, dance, and singing. Basically I just wanted to become a better “Me.”
I was really into Black culture so I went to Harlem. I enjoyed live concerts, dancing at clubs, getting my braids done uptown……..lived a normal life. That was my dream, living like an average person. I started from zero when I got to New York and I stayed there for two years. At that time, I was not a member of the idol group SPEED. I was Hitoe Arakaki, an average girl. I was wondering what would happen to me and what should I do. I was struggling trying to find who I was.
I had a few life changing experiences. The dance is one of them. I never took a regular dance class and I took one just like everybody else. That was my dream come true as I was so used to taking personal lessons before I came to New York. My favorite teacher was a B-girl and hip-hop dancer/choreographer named Anita “Rokafella” Garcia. She sings too. I believe her husband was also a hip-hop dancer and a teacher. To me, it was so precious to have a B-girl friend that I could talk to. That was a first hand real hip-hop experience for me. I had to go through some hardships and I had fun too. I was young and everything that happened to me that time was all meant to be. New York was good to me. I was positive that the choice I made was the right one for me.
H2N: What was your most memorable experience about the hip-hop dance scene back then?
Hitoe: Back then, the interesting thing about hip-hop dance was that it reflected the trend that was new and hot that time. Hip-hop was not recognized in Okinawa back then and wasn’t even ready to be embraced anytime soon. At the time when you said dance that meant JAZZ dance. I fell in love with hip-hop dance when I first saw it and wanted to introduce this new style of dance to the people in Japan. I didn’t know much about dancing theory or technique per se but I loved dancing so much that I just wanted to try to create my own style.
My favorite quote is, “Hip-hop is the way of life. That’s what’s my life is all about,” by a hip-hop dancer named Marquest. When I made my debut in a mainstream pop music scene without much experience then, the lack of experience started haunting me for a while. Then I became interested in black music and hip-hop culture and eventually I incorporated these elements into my performance. To me that was a big accopmplishment which I’m proud of.
If you look at the dance craze in Japan today, you will be really amazed by the level of kids’ dance performance ability. Hip-hop is taking over! That makes me very happy. I will definitely keep loving hip-hop and dancing ’til the day I die! History repeats by itself. Learning old-school/classic hip-hop dance styles can be your foundation or the roots. You can’t have the present without the past.
H2N: You are also a self-taught painter and had an exhibition in the past. Who are your favorite painters? (You mentioned in your blog that you loved American Modern Art and you went to see a Keith Haring Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.)
Hitoe: I have no formal training in art. I do not like any particular painters but I like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol and people in that time. I love the way they expressed the color they used and messages they were trying to send across. Basquiat’s approach is totally different from mine, almost opposite, so that makes me so intrigued by his style. I love color. I do portraits, and painting is like a dream come true. Everytime I completed a painting I felt like I was rewarded a great prize. Your expression could make people happy and that is the power! Unlike performing, the creative process of painting is something totally new and separate from your own self. I think music and art are unseparable. I need to get inspired so I listen to music when I paint. Music, I mean Black Music.
H2N: What’s going on with you now?
Hitoe: We released our first SPEED Re-Union album, “4 Colors” on November 14 last year, and now we are going to launch a special music video DVD, “SPEED Sonic Groove Clips,” featuring unreleased footage. It’s available on Blu-ray. It’s funny that fans know us from our teenage days so they get shocked to learn that I’m already in my 30’s. Thanks to my young looking self. I’m looking forward to expanding my creative force now that I have more time to focus on my solo projects.
Yoga is another means to search for my inner soul. I teach yoga as well. I also want to teach how to dance and hand it down to the next generation. I want to grow as a woman and be happy. Having experiences can be one of the most enduring components of well-being.
As I grow older, I am more open to new challenges such as having an exhibition in Harlem, home of the Harlem Reinessance, and publishing a book. I just keep moving because I strongly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it!!
One of my dreams since SPEED days came true last year when Chili and T-Boz of TLC came to Japan for a concert. I don’t know if it was because I was there in the first row, or it was because I wore my hair in blaids, but I was summoned to the stage by them and had a chance to dance with them. I was so overwhelmed that my knees started shaking but I guess I made it. That was the greatest moment of my life!
I’m in love with New York, the city I love most. It’s like my sweetheart. I enjoy the rhythm and the beat. I get inspired whenever I come to New York ‘cause the city has a really positive vibe. It’s the melting pot as they say. Makes me realize you can do anything you want as long as you know what you are doing. I cherish all the people I met in this city and learned more about myself and became a better me.
H2N: Thank you!