During a 1994 interview with Vibe, 2pac famously uttered, “I’m not saying I’m gonna’ change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” Twenty years later, the slain rapper’s influence is felt all over hip-hop, from Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne to lesser-known rappers far outside of America’s rap studios.
One of those rappers is 27-year-old Akiko Uraski, a native of Okinawa, a small island off the coast of Japan. Uraski raps under the name “Awich” and, in an interview with Vogue, she talked about how listening to 2pac helped shape her political understanding of Okinawa’s struggle for independence and resistance to U.S. military troops stationed on the island.
“Tupac was my textbook,” Awich told Vogue. “It was really fascinating to learn from him. What he says in his songs and interviews, turning negativity into strength, I felt a lot of positivity about that. I was obsessed with their struggle, and I think, I saw a similarity in the Okinawan people.”
Here’s the video for Awich’s song “In the Battle.”
Awich also told Vogue about the parallels she sees between traditional Okinawan music and black American music. “Okinawan songs are so hip-hop to me. They talk about struggle, they talk about the blues.”