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Juice Wrld and Blackman

Today I found a large mural of the words “black man” or “blackman” painted over and over again on the side of a building in Shibuya. Maybe it was in reference to Nailah Blackman, a soca singer from Trinidad, maybe the artists wanted to write black man. It’s hard to say. The mural also included a portrait of Juice Wrld, a young rapper who died last year from an overdose of oxycodone, codeine, and percocet. Apparently, he swallowed the pills to hide them from the police who were waiting for him to disembark from a private jet. They say the pilot called the cops.

Although it was painted on the side of Manhattan Records, I thought the mural was one of Japan’s contradictions. There are many. Monuments to old gods sit beside steel towers that worship new gods. Between clean pressed navy-blue suits, we see folks wearing traditional robes and walking on wooden shoes. Despite many technological innovations, parts of society remain stubbornly analog. Why send an email when the fax machine works just fine? Unfortunately, this is also the land where xenophobia runs rampant. For example, I have been on trains that were so crowded it seems like the bolts might pop out and kill a pigeon, but somehow, the seat next to me was often vacant. In contrast to omnipresent xenophobia was this larger than life mural of Juice Wrld and Black man as if it were being offered up as a prayer to yet another god.


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