Not a huge fan of rap in general, let alone the Japanese variety, but "DA.YO.NE" (Ain't It So?) by short-lived unit EAST END×YURI has kinda stuck with me over the years. The reason is not particularly because it's one of my favourite songs but it did begat a variety of intra-national dialectical variations and it is believed to be Japan's first hit of the genre.
I saw the release date on J-Wiki and Wikipedia for "DA.YO.NE" which was August 1994, and I had first thought that I must have missed something since my remembrances of the phenomenon surrounding the song were set after I had arrived in Japan for my second tour of duty there from November 1994. But after reading the articles for the song, I realized that "DA.YO.NE" had had an initially slow history before it got a well-needed boost of promotion from a Hokkaido radio station which gave the song some heavy rotation on its turntables and then widespread exposure across the nation.
Seemingly, though, the song and the unit seemed to get real big overnight although I knew next to nothing about EAST END×YURI. However over the years, I learned that YURI was Yuri Ichii（市井由理）, a former aidoru from Tokyo Performance Doll（東京パフォーマンスドール）who got into this collaboration with hip-hop group EAST END (consisting of Yoggy, Gaku and ROCK-Tee) to create this safe pop-rap tune (no sex, drugs or alcohol or deep social message) incorporating plenty of Japanese teen-speak. And just like one of those earworms, it was pretty much everywhere for a time including the big music shows such as "Music Station". Just to be specific, the song was written by Gaku and Mummy-D from Rhymester and composed by Yoggy.
"DA.YO.NE" came in at the right time, I think...just between the pop-rock of the early 1990s and the musical tidal wave of the Komuro Boom with Namie Amuro, Tomomi Kahala and trf that would take over a lot of J-Pop for the next few years. It broke into the Top 10 by peaking at No. 7 and it broke through the million barrier. Plus the rap also got EAST END×YURI their invitation to the 1995 Kohaku Utagassen, almost 18 months after the song's release. "DA.YO.NE" would end 1995 as the 33rd-ranked single. Before the song was released as a single, it had already been a track on the unit's debut album "denim-ed soul" which had been released in June 1994.
Ah, I did mention those dialectal variants, didn't I? As a cool reminder to folks not from Japan about the number of regional dialects there are, parody versions of "DA.YO.NE" were whipped up. For example, there was the Osakan "SO.YA.NA" by WEST END x YUKI which came out in February 1995. The WEST END were a couple of Yoshimoto Kogyo comedians, Koji Imada and Koji Higashino（今田耕司・東野幸治）, joined by Yukiko Takeuchi（武内由紀子）from Osaka Performance Doll（大阪パフォーマンスドール）.
Hearing this version, there was so much Kansai-ben thrown about, it sounded like a lot of the usual banter among my family and friends put down to a musical beat. "SO.YA.NA" actually exceeded the original in the Oricon weeklies by hitting No. 6 although in the yearly rankings, it finished somewhat lower at No. 59.
Then, there was "DA.BE.SA", the version in the Hokkaido dialect which was released a couple of months after "SO.YA.NA" by NORTH END×AYUMI. The NORTH END was Takayuki Suzui（鈴井貴之）, who was hosting a late-night TV program in Hokkaido at the time, and Ryusuke Denno（伝野隆介）, a local tarento. AYUMI was Ayumi Ito（伊藤亜由美）who was also a local TV personality at the time. This northern take performed a bit more modestly, hitting No. 43.
Following those, there came versions from the Tohoku district, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. All of the dialectal covers ended up on the album "SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO DA.YO.NE".
After all of the linguistic hoopla launched by "DA.YO.NE", there was still one niggling question from me. Sampling in hip-hop is no surprise but for the life of me, I couldn't recognize the sample in that particular song. My need to have my curiosity sated gradually waned as the song slowly disappeared into music history. But recently, the question popped up again due to the blog. And the smooth piano sample was straight out of George Benson's "Turn Your Love Around", a hit from 1981 that I used to hear all the time on Toronto radio, so I wanted to slap myself upside the back of my head a la Special Agent Gibbs-style for the non-recognition.
In any case, according to the J-Wiki article on "DA.YO.NE", Bill Champlin of the band Chicago, who had helped create "Turn Your Love Around" along with Steve Lukather of TOTO and producer Jay Graydon, just happened to be in Japan when he heard those familiar notes in "DA.YO.NE". Apparently, there was the point about not getting official approval for using the sample (oops), and Champlin made an issue about it, but in all likelihood, it didn't get nasty since with the proper payment of royalties the following day, all was copacetic. That made for a smoother resolution that a certain other song didn't enjoy.