Tag Archives: SPEED

Miss Hitoe of SPEED – Exclusive Interview Part 2!

Hitoe 2012

Hitoe 2012

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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!”

Exclusive Interview!
Miss Hitoe from SPEED – Interview Part 2

Go to Interview part 1
Go to Hitoe’s profile

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.

Hitoe

Hitoe

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.

Hitoe Arakaki

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.

(Hitoe Arakaki)

H2N:  Thank you!

Go to Interview part 1
Go to Hitoe’s profile

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Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 2 Miss Hitoe from SPEED Interview Pt. 1

SPEED – 4 colors

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Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 2

 Miss Hitoe from SPEED – Interview Part 1

I met Hitoe through a mutual friend while she was in New York City and I was immediately impressed by her passion for Hip-Hop dance, music and Black culture. She graciously granted me an interview for Harlem2Nippon.

H2N: SPEED made its debut while you were still in O.A.S. (Okinawa Actors Studios in Okinawa, Japan) in your early teens. Can you describe O.A.S. back then and who attended the school?

Hitoe: They were from young kids to young adults around 20-years old. We studied acting, singing, dancing and performing and we showcased our performances on stage every 3 months.

H2N: Why did you decide to attend O.A.S.?

Hitoe: I loved dancing since I was a little girl and I danced to then popular Brazil’s La Banda music every day. I came to know about FM Radio broadcasted by the American military base in Okinawa and listened to American pop music. I guess my aunt knew that I loved dance so she arranged the audition for O.A.S.’ gifted kids program. I felt so special and happy that a country girl like me could get dressed nice and commute to the studios in a big city (Naha City) even though it took me an hour to get there.

H2N: What made you want to be an entertainer?

Hitoe: It’s funny, I never thought about becoming an entertainer or anything. I just wanted to dance. I was blessed that I could do what I wanted to do. I thought, “I want to be a fashion designer” back then, but I wasn’t serious. I still can’t believe that I am a part of SPEED! When I was told that I was going to be a member of SPEED, the sense of responsibility weighed heavy on my 15-year-old mind. From then on I started to understand gradually what being an entertainer was all about.

Hitoe

H2N: Your dance and fashion style seems to reflect Hip-Hop influences from artists such as Aaliyah and TLC. Who you were inspired by?

Hitoe: My mother taught us, “Be yourself,” so I was drawn to unique and self determined artists. I was watching MTV a lot and I went to school with outrageous braided hair. At the time when I was in elementary school, Janet Jackson was so huge and we practiced New Jack Swing and Jazz dance. While we were at O.A.S. we were desperately searching for our own style. When we saw TLC, we fell in love with them. We had never seen the way they danced before and the way they moved with such a groove. It was shockingly fresh to us. We are like, “From now on our goal is to become the Japanese TLC.” Among other members I was drawn to Left Eye for her creative energy. I played their “Crazy Sexy Cool” album more than million times! It was so cooool! We imitated their dance moves. I also loved Aaliyah for her beauty because she was so mysterious sometimes and she possessed originality in dancing. In terms of dancing style, I also love Beyonce, Ciara and of course Miss Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson! On a male side, Usher is my favorite artist as he knows how to show his talent as a dancer and performer. I was inspired by so many artists like Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Monica, Brandy……their fashion statements and artistic direction……. I love Black music in general and I listen to them all.

H2N: Did the members of SPEED ever criticize you for being too “Black”?

Hitoe: No way (lol.) Everybody in my group loves different kinds of music and style so it was OK that I was in a certain way. They accepted me for who I was. But one time when I changed my hair to an Afro for our music video shoot, “White Love,” my manager got furious! He almost fired me!! (lol). From that point on I became fearless!!! (lol). At the time, people were like, “Pop idol with Afro? Hell no!” but I thought an Afro was so sexy. Why not? I don’t understand why people wouldn’t get it.

H2N: I heard you are a professionally trained dancer. Did you take dance classes?

Hitoe: Yes. After we were signed we practiced with a choreographer. I was a really good dancer when I danced free style but I was having a hard time learning all the moves my choreographer taught me. I had to practice more than anybody else! We got a chance to appear as semi-regular performers on a TV show called “Yoru Mo Hippare” and while we were on that show I got the hang of it and got better. It was almost like taking a dance class every time we were on the show. I felt like I was in school even though that was a job. It was the good old days.

H2N: You are a principal dancer in SPEED. Which dancers or music videos inspired you?

Hitoe: That’s hard ‘cause it’s too many. As a group SPEED, our goal was to be like TLC and their “Creep” video was our learning material. We copied all the moves, even the way they dressed while rehearsing! The artists and videos I was personally influenced by include “Alright” by Janet Jackson which I tried to mimic the steps and choreography while I was still on O.A.S. “I Get Lonely” by Janet and “If Your Girl Only Knew” by Aaliyah were also my favorites. “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige was so street and I thought that was so hip-hop. “You Make Me Wanna” by Usher motivated me so much that I y danced really hard so that I could dance like him. He’s a great performer as well. I think I saw the new dance move called Harlem Shake when I saw Eve’s “Who’s That Girl.” I’m good at it. (lol). I love “Move Your Body – Official Video” by Beyonce ‘cause it has a strong Old School feel to it and has all the dance elements.

I got to know the dance crew named Elite-Force through a friend of mine. They are the best!! When I saw their dance video, I was kind of crushed that my dancing was nothing compared to them.  If you don’t know them you should check out their “Wreckin’ Shop Live From Brooklyn – ALIVE TV.” Believe me, it changed my world. They are also featured on Mariah Carey’s “Honey (Bad Boy Remix)” featuring Puff Daddy, Mase & Jadakiss. Real cool!!

SPEED’s new album, 4 COLORES is being released on November 14. Please check it out!

(Interviewed by Yasuko Ito)

To be continued…….

Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 1 日本ヒップホップ・ネイション Miss Hitoe from SPEED – 1

SPEED

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日本ヒップホップ・ネイション Miss Hitoe from SPEED – 1

 スピードのメンバー、仁絵(Hitoe)さん

日本人の有名人の人たちのなかにもNYが好きな人、R&Bやヒップホップが大好きな人たちがいます。私の知っている人でも何人か日本の芸能界で活躍しているヒップホップ・ファンがいます。H2Nではあらたに「日本ヒップホップ・ネイション」のコーナーを設け日本人で活躍しているアーティストのインタビューを掲載していきたいと思います。

初回はアイドル・グループ、「SPEED」で活躍していたダンサーの仁絵さんです。彼女のNY好きはよく知られていて、「SPEED」が解散した後は2年間NY留学をしたほどだそうです。

ブラック・カルチャーが大好きで、アフロ・ヘアやブレイズ・ヘアでヒップホップ・ダンスを踊ったりして注目された仁絵さん。彼女のファンキーで自由奔放な自己表現は日本のお茶の間のみなさんにもすんなり受け入れられました。仁絵さんのラヴリーなキャラのおかげで、ブラック・カルチャーが一般大衆にまで広まりました。 自分のパフォーマンスに「ソウル」を散りばめてお茶の間のみなさんにお届けする、そんな彼女の功績はとても素晴らしいと私は思います。ハーレム2ニッポンではブラック・カルチャーと日本の文化を結ぶ「架け橋」が目標なのですが、それをいとも簡単に実現してしまったのが仁絵さんではないでしょうか。

ニューヨークで絵画を勉強したりヨガを習って資格を取得したり、つねに新しいチャレンジをしている仁絵さんの姿はあまりに神々しくて眩しくさえ感じられます。

その仁絵さんと最近会う機会があり、あらためて彼女のブラック・カルチャーを愛する姿勢に感動しました。SPEED 再結成、11月14日にニュー・アルバム、「 4 colors」をリリースするそうです。仁絵さんのアーティストとしての歩みを振り返ってみましょう。

1995年「夜もヒッパレ」に当時すでに大スターだった安室奈美恵の妹分として出演。

1996年 SPEED結成。新垣仁絵15歳でトイズ・ファクトリーとレーベル契約、芸能界デビュー。目標はアメリカのヒップホップ・ガール・グループ、TLC。

スタジオ・アルバム

1997年、ファースト・アルバム、「Starting Over」をリリース。

1998年、2枚目アルバム、「Rise」リリース。

1999年、「Carry On My Way」アルバム・リリース。

2003年、「Bridge」リリース。

その他、ライヴ・アルバムなど作品多数。1999年には仁絵さんの初ソロ・シングル「祈り」を発売、いきなりオリコン2位という快挙を遂げています。

仁絵さんのインタビューは次回、Part 1 とPart 2 の2回に分けてお届けしますのでお楽しみに!

伊藤弥住子

Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 1 Miss Hitoe from SPEED

SPEED

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Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 1

Miss Hitoe from SPEED

 The first guest for our new feature “Nippon Hip Hop Nation” Special Interview series is a good friend of mine, Miss Hitoe of SPEED.

Hitoe Arakaki ,is the oldest member of the Japanese pop girl group SPEED, which disbanded in 2000 and reformed in 2009. Their first album since their reunion, 4 Colors, will be released on November 14, 2012.

Arakaki was born in Okinawa, Japan, and is also known by her first name, Hitoe. Her trademarks are her enthusiastic dancing as well as her wild and eccentric hairstyles.

Speed made their major label debut on August 5, 1996 and became an immediate success. Their debut album Starting Over became their first number one album on Japan’s Oricon weekly charts. They would eventually become the most successful girl group in Asia with sales of over 20 million singles and albums in just three years and eight months. The members disbanded on March 31, 2000 to pursue solo careers and to study.

Speed – Ashita No Sora

In 1999, Hitoe released her first solo single, “Inori”, which reached number two on the Oricon charts. On December 2002, she released her second single “I Got You” and the album I’ll Do It My Way. Besides “Inori,” she co-wrote all the tracks on the album. In February 2003, she released her third single, “I’ll Do It My Way”.

Hitoe is also an accomplished graphic artist, and following Speed’s breakup, she moved to New York City to attend art school. She is known for her distinctive graffiti styled paintings often depicting African-American life style. She has published an art book called “Vibe Art” and has held private exhibitions in Tokyo and New York. Her work has also been featured on the covers of various American Hip Hop compilation CDs.

Hitoe also became active in yoga and is a licensed yoga instructor in Japan.  In June 2007, she published a book and DVD of yoga lessons. Hitoe is currently teaching yoga in Shibuya, Japan’s Star Light Studio.

SPEED Discography

Studio Albums

1997         Starting Over

1998         Rise

1999          Carry On My Way

2003         Bridge

Other Albums

1998         Moment

2000         SPEED The Memorial best 1335 Days Dear Friends 1

2000         SPEED The Memorial best 1335 Days Dear Friends 2

2001         SPEED Memorial Live “One More Dream” + Remix

2004         Best Hits Live: Save The Children SPEED Live 2003

2009         SPEEDland: The Premium Best Re Tracks

Hitoe’s interview coming soon!

Yasuko Ito