'B-stylers' Are Japanese Teens Who Want to Be Black
Dutch photographer Desiré van den Berg has spent the past seven months traveling around Asia. She lives in Hong Kong at the moment but when she was in Tokyo, back in December 2013, she met Hina, a 23-year-old who works at a trendy Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop. Hina’s shop has the tagline “Black for life.” She describes its products as “a tribute to Black culture; the music, the fashion, and style of dance.”
Hina’s appearance is also loyal to what the Japanese call “B-style”—a contraction of the words “Black” and “Lifestyle” that refers to a subculture of young Japanese people who love American hip-hop culture so much that they do everything in their power to look as African American as possible.
I called up Desiré to find out more about her time photographing Hina and her gang.
VICE: How did you meet Hina?
Desiré van den Berg: She appeared in a documentary about B-style a couple of years back, which I happened to watch. This is what got me interested in the culture. It took a lot of effort, but I eventually got in touch with her on Facebook, through other B-stylers. I said I wanted to take photos of her, and she actually thought that was pretty cool. It was all a bit of a hassle though, because Hina and the other B-stylers didn’t speak a single word of English. We needed a translator both to make an appointment and at the actual first meeting, too.
How does that work in terms of translating rap lyrics?
Hina speaks some English but not fluently. She does like to use some English slang when she speaks Japanese with her B-style friends, like finishing a sentence with “man” or using bad words like “motherfucker” jokingly.
Continue + More Photos
Can MDMA Make You Racist?
You don’t have a lot of time for rational thought after dropping a pill. Three Mitsis in and you’re almost entirely preoccupied with finding out what people’s scarves feel like, or trying to focus on literally anything through your rapidly flickering eyes. So you’d have thought that amid all the euphoria and heart palpitations there surely wouldn’t be space to get hung up on the ethnicity of the people around you.
It turns out, however, that the brain’s biochemistry during a blissed-out club night may not be too dissimilar from its status at a KKK rally. This is thanks to a hormone called oxytocin, which has been described by many as "the love hormone" or the "cuddle drug." The hormone has been linked to developing trust between mother and child during breast feeding, and between partners after intercourse. Its release is also triggered by MDMA, and that loved-up feeling you get after swallowing a pill has been attributed to the effects the hormone has on the brain.
However, research by professor Carsten de Dreu at the University of Amsterdam showed in 2011 that oxytocin had a slightly more sinister side. His experiments revealed that what many thought of as the “moral molecule” actually contributed to what scientists euphemistically refer to as “ethnocentrism,” or what the layman would call racism.
Participants in de Dreu’s study were presented with a dilemma in which they had to deny one person access to a lifeboat in order to save five others. In the double-blind experiment, Dutch men were given either oxytocin via a nasal spray or a placebo. The results showed that those taking oxytocin were more likely to spare men with Dutch names while sacrificing those with Muslim- or German-sounding names. For those who were given the placebo, however, the name of the potential victim didn’t matter.
French Drag Queen Dance Battles
Voguing is an urban dance inspired by model poses in the pages of Vogue, where dancers gather to compete in Voguing “battles.” Following its creation in 1980s New York, the movement has spread to France, thanks to the success of singers like Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce.
Paris-based Lasseindra is one of the main drag queen leaders of the movement. She started competing in dance battles and organizing competitions at a young age. She was quickly recruited by House of Ninja, one of the most famous Voguing collectives.
VICE met with Lasseindra to talk about being black, a drag queen, and a Voguing superstar.
Watch the documentary
Ibiza Looked Just As Fun Before the Ravers Came
Before the crap ecstasy and Paul Oakenfold, Ibiza was something else entirely: a sleepy Balearic island known for being the favored vacation destination of famous, wealthy hippies hoping to escape the exhausting stresses of making music for a living. There was, however, a short period of change between the boho years and the Ibiza Uncovered era—a span of time that last roughly from the mid-1970s until the late-80s.
During that time, instead of being overrun by tourists getting dressed up in their best pair of shorts to hurl $15 at a luminous bottle of drink in Pacha, Ibiza Town was full of beautiful European people wearing weird clothes and dancing around in open-air nightclubs. It was a bit like Berlin was in the 2000s but with glorious, blazing sunlight and sandy beaches rather than Arctic winds and stern Soviet architecture.
Photographer Derek Ridgers happened to be on a family holiday in Ibiza in 1983 when he came across all these European club kids, and fresh from photographing London’s skinheads, he trained his camera upon them. For whatever reason, no publications would buy his photos at the time, so they’d been sitting around unseen for decades until he dug them out and put them on display this month as part of the ICA’s “Ibiza: Moments in Love" exhibition.
I gave Derek a call to chat about his pictures.
Continue + More Pics
The Dying Art of Belly Dancing in Conservative Egypt
At the Scheherezade club in Cairo’s downtown district, five paying customers and a dozen staff sat and gawped as the belly dancer shimmied across the stage, amid the peeling paint, chipped murals and dusty faux chandeliers of what used to be a very grand dance hall. The atmosphere is awkward and sad. When a member of the audience threw a handful of Egyptian pounds in the air, the club owner swiftly appeared and scooped it all up. When someone tucked a big bill into the dancer’s dress, she promptly handed it over to the aging pimp-like crooner on stage.
There’s no glitz or glamor in sight, only a tired and depressed-looking dancer doing one of the few things that might earn an uneducated woman a lot of money in Egypt. (Top dancers can earn up to $2000 to perform at a wedding.)
The past three years have been tough in general for most Cairo entertainers.
The Anna Nicole Smith Opera Is a Piece of Terrible Garbage
The New York City Opera has been around for 70 years, but it’s currently in some dire financial straits. If the opera doesn’t raise $7 million dollars by the end of the month it won’t be able to present three scheduled productions: Endimione, Bluebeards’s Castle, orThe Marriage of Figaro. Considering there’s only got four days to go, and the Kickstarter is clocking in at $126,078, it’s doubtful this will happen. Regardless of your feelings on ladies in Viking helmets, it’s ostensibly important to hold on to cultural institutions like this, and you should probably support them so that rich old people can keep seeing Tristan und Isolde—do that right here.
Point is, the opera is broke, and if the board of directors knows one thing, it’s that the gays of New York are the only demographic that can pull them from the flames. With that in mind, the New York City Opera has taken dead aim on us by running a biographical opera of Anna Nicole Smith, unimaginatively named Anna Nicole.
For a bit of personal context, I’m gay, and Anna was as constant in my young life as the homeless lady in the alley behind my family’s puppy store—she was always fucking there. I grew up in Florida, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino where Anna overdosed was just a quick drive from my mom’s house. I found out about her death from my prep school music teacher, while I was stage managing my school’s production of Cats—roll with it, I was a theater kid. She stopped rehearsals, stood up, and screamed, “Anna Nicole is dead!” We all knew our lives were changed forever. Anna’s body was interned at a medical examiner’s office near my grocery store, making it impossible to buy milk without getting stuck in the traffic caused by a thousand news network vans. It was fantastic!
We Need to Talk About London’s Club Drug Problem
Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones is the founder of London’s Club Drug Clinic, started in 2011, which aims to provide aid to people who have “begun to experience problems with their use of recreational drugs.” After they were overwhelmed with users of ketamine, cocaine, ecstasy, and legal substances who wanted help, a second clinic was opened earlier this year.
Unlike heroin and crack, for which many rehabilitation and counselling services exist, party drugs often aren’t associated with bad things like addiction, losing your job, losing your mind, and ruining your life. Owen hopes that in addition to helping individual users, his clinics will spread understanding of the dangers of these relatively new drugs through the medical world.
I gave Owen a call to find out what he’s discovered from treating people.
VICE: Has drug use changed much in the UK in the past ten to 15 years?
Owen Bowden-Jones: What we’ve seen are relatively major reductions in heroin and crack use and an increase in a new group of drugs called “club drugs”—things like ketamine, MDMA, and mephedrone.
I’m familiar with the category. What about the ways in which people take them?
Actually, we’re finding that quite a few of these people are beginning to inject their drugs, especially mephedrone and ketamine. So all of the very real dangers that we used to see with heroin injecting, we’re now beginning to see with these newer club drugs.
Oh, dear. What are the drugs that cause the most problems?
Here at the Club Drug Clinic, the four main drugs we’ve seen have been ketamine, GBL or GHB, crystal meth, and mephedrone. You can often determine the drug someone’s using [when they come in]. It seems to split along the lines of sexuality. We’re seeing a lot of gay men using crystal meth and GBL—for sex—while we’re seeing a lot of straight clubbers and students using ketamine and mephedrone. Interestingly, we’ve hardly seen anybody come into the clinic saying they’ve got a problem with MDMA or ecstasy—that just hasn’t happened.
The Totally Unnecessary DJs of E3
I understand and appreciate the rise of EDM and DJ culture. I see how it brings people together, allows for personal expression, and gives you a great excuse to do tons of molly and “accidentally” rub up against women in a club. I get it. And yet, I do not accept that DJs belong everywhere. DJs should not be at mundane events like baby showers, Christmas-tree lightings, sentencing hearings, art-gallery openings, dog shows, rollerblading competitons, political rallies, traffic accidents, Chinese New Year, or the Super Bowl. Not everything needs to have dancing. Actually, most public gatherings are awkward, especially when the event is one in which the host is trying to sell you something.
I went to the E3 video-game trade show this past week, and like every other convention or industry gathering in our modern era, DJs were shoehorned into the proceedings. I don’t need the “bass to drop” while I’m waiting in line to see the new XBox or to use the bathroom, thank you very much.
I decided to take a stroll around and see if anyone was actually getting down to the music the many, many E3 DJs were playing.
Photographing the Soul of UK Garage
Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that we didn’t appreciate UK garage to the extent that we should have. You can’t help but think that most of the DJs, producers, filmmakers, and fashion designers referencing Todd Edwards and Ben Sherman in their work today actually grew up listening to Coal Chamber and wearing JNCO jeans.
One man who was definitely there, however, is photographer Ewen Spencer. Ewen’s done a lot of things over the years, from working with the White Stripes and documenting the halcyon days of grime (if there was ever such a thing) in his book Open Mic, to taking the liner photos for Original Pirate Material. His latest project concerns the increasingly lauded but still somewhat undocumented world of UKG, and comes in the form of a new book, Brandy & Coke.
The photos are fantastic, perfectly capturing the atmosphere of those early garage nights all my friends’ older brothers claim to have been at. The newspaper-print trousers and YSL button-downs are all there in the forefront, being splashed by open bottles of champagne and classy drinks. After a good few hours of longingly staring at the photos, wishing I was one of the satin-suited people in them, I decided to catch up with Ewen to talk garage, grime, garms and whether or not ex-Newcastle striker Andy Cole really was one of the “original 50 garage ravers.”
You can find some of these images and some words from Ewen in the latest issue of VICE Magazine.
VICE: Hi, Ewen. So, when did you first hear the term garage used in relation to dance music?
Ewen Spencer: In the early 90s, but that would have been American garage, like house music. New York vocal house music would have been called “garage.” I first heard it on the soul scene, probably. At that time, it was crossing over and me and my pals were going to soul parties, avoiding the atrocious rave scene. House music was infiltrating the soul scene and, at that time, garage was basically soulful house.
There’s this debate about who the true parents of UK garage are—what’s your opinion on that?
Yeah, I think it’s a worthwhile debate. It came from America, it didn’t come from rave culture. Rave culture was British. It came from Detroit, America, which is when we started to hear house music in the club—in Newcastle, for instance. We liked all of that stuff, but it was placed side by side with soul music: Soul II Soul, modern soul, SOS Band, all that shit. So I guess rave became overground and house music changed and became something else. And then I’d say speed garage came out of New Jersey and was popularized over here.