Nerd Rap: How Dragon Ball Z Influenced the Rap Music We Have Today

When people usually think of the type of person that watches anime the stereotype that is that they are a socially awkward nerd who does nothing but live in their room and binge watch their shows. However you might be surprised to find that many artists in music today actually reference anime quite a bit, particularly those in the rap industry. One show that stands out far beyond the rest in their music today is Dragon Ball Z. This graphic novel originally created by Akira Toriyama, was adapted into anime production and later released in the United States in 1996. However the series didn’t gain popularity until it was rerun on Cartoon Networks’ Toonami in 1998. The show focuses on a the adventures of the protagonist Goku, an alien from a humanoid race called saiyans, who defends the Earth from villains. These villains range from other worldly threats and conquerors, such as Cell and Frieza, to other saiyans and androids. While the original Dragon Ball anime followed Goku from his childhood into adulthood, Dragon Ball Z is primarily focused on his adult life.

Goku using a Kamehameha Wave, one of the shows most iconic attacks.

According to a interview found on a similar article on The Daily Dot,  the demographic of the show actually seemed to appeal most to “young boys of color” which makes sense because a majority of the music today is now produced/created by those very same kids. Artists like Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and Chief Keef have all used references to the show in their music. One of the most common themes in these references is the act of going Super Saiyan.

Seen above, this was the first time the Super Saiyan transformation was seen in the show. This transformation occurs when the character is under extreme duress and grants a huge increase in strength and power. It is also characterized by changing the character’s hair style to spiky golden hair with an ambient energy force glowing around them to further depict their ascended status. This ascension to another level is what rappers channel most into the music they create. Facing challenges and rising above them, much like the main character Goku, is a huge source of inspiration that pays homage to the show they grew up on. Some artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Logic even have even more direct references in their music for example; “Lil Uzi go Super Saiyan” from Super Saiyan Trunks by Lil Uzi Vert, and “I’m Goku, you f**kers is Krillin with the spirit bomb” from” Young Jedi by Logic.  One could easily make an entire article simply with quotes from songs referencing all things Dragon Ball Z. This only goes to show how influential this single graphic novel has been to our artists today. Even now the resurgence of Toonami on adult swim as well as the next chapter in the saga, Dragon Ball Super, the show has become even more of a pop culture norm than it was in the 90’s. Also with the creation of Soundcloud and “Soundcloud Artists”, I’m sure there will be a large amount of aspiring artists trying to go Super Saiyan in their own way.


“Why do rappers love ‘Dragon Ball Z’ so much?” The Daily Dot, 19 Mar. 2016,

2 thoughts on “Nerd Rap: How Dragon Ball Z Influenced the Rap Music We Have Today

  1. A few years ago, a friend of mine showed me a rap that they did. They mentioned Goku at one point and I remember thinking that was the weirdest thing. I guess it makes a little more sense now.

  2. A lot of my favorite rappers talk about anime a lot. Ski mask the slump god, wifisfunneral, and robb banks are all examples of rappers who do this. Comics have also impacted groups like Wutang clan. I think that “cool” people have always been into anime and comic books but to the mainstream they can be seen as outsiders similar to a lot of rappers and rap fans.

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