Los Angeles, CA – starRo moved to Los Angeles from Japan a decade ago with little more than a dream. Not unlike your typical aspiring artist who arrives at the City of Angels with stars in their eyes.
But starRo set himself apart this year with his first ever Grammy nomination for his remix of “Heavy Star Movin.” The producer/DJ did not take home the gramophone trophy on Sunday (February 12), but he still made a tremendous impact as the first Japanese electronic artist to receive a Grammy nod.
When asked by HipHopDX if he believes he is breaking boundaries for artists, he responded by saying, “I hope so, not just as a Japanese artist, but for Asian artists as a whole. I haven’t seen many Asian electronic artists in the mainstream – there’s Asian classical artists and jazz artists, but not many electronic or Hip Hop artists. There’s a lot of very talented artists in Japan, but things such as the language barrier and geographical constraints prevent them from going out and exposing themselves to the American market. But I hope that people get the message that anyone can do this, it doesn’t really matter where you’re from.”
starRo is heavily influenced by Hip Hop and his first Hip Hop record was by Gang Starr. His dad was a jazz pianist, which subtly helped him craft his art, even if he didn’t like all of the jazz he was forced to listen to growing up.
“When I was little I used to stay away from it because my dad was playing too many jazz records,” he says. “But jazz is first and foremost the biggest influence on my life, even though I didn’t realize it when I was young. Hip Hop sampling jazz made it something I could digest. Some of my favorite artists are A Tribe Called Quest, Black Star and more recently Chance the Rapper, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and GoldLink – artists who don’t just rap on the beats, but embrace the musical elements of Hip Hop.”
This blending of genres was on full display as starRo celebrated his Grammy nomination with some of his dear friends from various styles of music at a show at Los Angeles’ Regency. He enlisted New Orleans rapper Pell as one of the acts to open for him.
“I wanted to make this a family affair,” he says. “I wanted to celebrate with my friends, especially with Pell, as he is one of my favorite artists. He is a very musical guy. I think he is leading the scene I mentioned earlier, where Hip Hop is becoming more musical. It was an honor to have him and all my other friends at the show.”
Pell expresses mutual respect for starRo and details the atmosphere at the show, including all of the elements that his friend weaved together.
“It was an amazing experience to see so many different types of artists and musicians come together and support one another,” he remarks. Also, the choir was awesome that performed with him, felt like I was born again.”
starRo says he gets similar rejuvenation every time he shares the stage with some of his favorite rappers. He’s performed alongside Anderson .Paak and GoldLink and says what he enjoys most about doing shows with them is “definitely the energy.”
“One thing I like about Hip Hop artists is that they know how to handle the crowd, and that’s something I always learn from performing with them,” he explains. “In many cases, when you’re doing a live set or deejaying, the crowd needs someone to lead them. Hip Hop artists always know how to free people up and get them moving.”
While in the past, there might have been a stricter division between the electronic world and Hip Hop, starRo sees the two worlds merging. Megastar Steve Aoki and legendary DJ Destructo have been instrumental in blending the two cultures through various collaborations with Hip Hop artists. starRo expresses deep gratitude toward the Hip Hop community for embracing him.
“It means a lot me,” he says. “That’s one of the beautiful things about the Hip Hop community, people are very open-minded.”
And for starRo, the Grammy nomination is just another landmark step in his journey. He still views himself as an upcoming artist who is continuing to grow.
“I’m just doing the same things, you know,” he says. “But the world around me has changed. People who I hadn’t thought about collaborating with are coming forward, which gives me more access and new options to explore my music.”