Album art courtsey of Sese
Starting as far back as the early 2000s, hip-hop has always had an odd fascination with anime. From Kanye West (rightfully) claiming Akira is better than Spirited Away to Lupe Fiasco dropping numerous gems on wax—most noticeably referencing the Lupin the Third line on his breakout "Touch the Sky" verse—rappers have flourished with knowing winks to the house that Japan built. But one series, almost overwhelmingly, has continued to endure in the rap vernacular for almost 20 years: author/artist Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball Z.
The sequel to the original Dragon Ball, DBZ is a popular anime about an earthbound man, Goku, learning he's the last of a dying breed of aliens and going on to use his strength to save the world from extraterrestrial threats. The show has won over countless fans—including artists like Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, Soulja Boy, Chance the Rapper, all of whom have made DBZ references in their music (high praises to to VICE producer Eleanor Fye for the info). Now, a Niagara Falls, Ontario, rapper by the name of Sese, a.k.a. Lord Frieza, has taken it a level further with his entirely DBZ-inspired mixtape The Frieza Saga. Pulling its name and inspiration after one of the series' most popular and beloved arcs, in which Goku must fight Galactic overlord and destroyer of planets Frieza, Sese says his foray into "anime-rap" was put into motion after watching a bunch of Dragon Ball Z on Youtube with his friends.
"One of my friends was talking about how epic the battles on Dragon Ball Z were and then we started talking about how crazy the parallels between hip-hop and the show are," Sese explains. "Everyone on the show is trying to level up their powers and be the strongest fighter, and that's pretty much how I look at the rap game—rappers want to be the best, they want to be the next guy and then the creative juices started flowing."
The tape samples clips and music from the original Japanese soundtrack, while also adding in more contemporary touches, like Sese's Migos-inspired cadence of "why must you flex, Vegeta, Vegeta" on the track "Vegeta." Sese drops bars for
fans to geek out over, like "smoking Piccolo on planet Namek / Fuck it I'm a hippie / Said I'm perfect like I'm Perfect Cell," which have amassed the rapper a steady, cult-like following. One of those fans is Omega-6 God Shenron rapper
, who started following Sese mysteriously—as he usually does—
. Perhaps he too watches
on his off weeks. Either way, perplexed by these series of events, we chatted it up with Sese about his fondness for the series and challenged him to a
pop quiz. Is J. Cole the Krillin of rap? What
character would Jay Z be?
God, we're such dorks
Noisey: This is probably a very obvious answer but who is your favorite character in DBZ?
Sese: Got to be Frieza because he's like the meanest, coolest, evilest dude who just destroys planets. And he wanted to be the baddest and that's how I feel about this rap shit, I want to destroy everything.
But you realize Frieza got bodied like several different times [See: Goku, Future Trunks, Pikkon, Gohan and then Goku again]?
[Laughs] Yeah, Frieza got bodied many different times but the thing about Frieza, even in the new movie, is that he is resilient. No matter how many times he got put down-shit there's been times for me where I was thinking things were going to take off and they didn't. So in way I've taken Ls in the game as well but I bounced back. I keep coming back stronger.
Now why did you choose to make a song about Vegeta?
Well, Vegeta is like… when I was working on the album I was watching the Frieza saga, of course, and Vegeta was trying to be the toughest and most powerful. And he would keep coming at Frieza. Like Frieza would kill him, and he would still come back and try again. So, I was looking at Vegeta like the rappers who think they're bad and don't really do nothing. They're flexing beyond their capabilities.
Do you know how Drake found out about you and why he started following you on Instagram?
I don't know what happened or how he heard about it. I do have some relationships with some people in that [OVO] camp but not him directly. It's crazy because I didn't really notice when it first happened. I was at King of The Dot and then people were commenting underneath my pictures [on Instagram] and they were saying Drake's following me. This was like at 7:45 PM in the evening. And then I went onto my followers list, and it was his actual account following me, so I was stoked.
So is this going to be the start of a new thing, are you going to be making more Dragon Ball Z related mixtapes?
Yeah, people are hitting me up and telling me I need to do the Cell Games saga or something entirely different like Attack on Titan and all this other crazy shit. I dont know I haven't really thought about it. I just sort of had this one in my head and it came about the way it came about. But if the response is big enough, absolutely I'll follow up.
Is there one particular saga or maybe a different anime entirely you would want to do?
I haven't put any thought into that but I would probably carry out the DBZ theme because of the way it worked and the response that it got. I see that people who are interested in anime parallel a lot with people who are interested in rap. So it seems like the two genres kind of coincide. Shit's crazy.
Why do you think that is?
It is weird. I remember talking to my boy about making this album and I was like man this is a big risk because it could have easily have been an L and I'd have people be like "the hell is this guy doing with a cartoon on the cover on his [mixtape]." If you look at music right now everyone is into the whole gang mentality and the trap stuff so for me to do a mixtape about anime is kind of left field. It was a chance but it looks like it's working so I'm going to run with it.
Interesting. So, now I'm going to ask you a couple of quick questions to see how much you really know about Dragon Ball Z. Let's start off with something easy; what's the birthplace of Vegeta and all Saiyans?
What are the two ways to do a fusion?
You see I haven't gotten to Dragon Ball GT [the series after DBZ] so I'm not really into the fusions yet.
Fine. Outside of Super Saiyan God what's the highest level a Super Saiyan can reach?
Super Saiyan 4.
That's a trick question, it's Super Saiyan 3. Dragon Ball GT isn't canon so it doesn't count.
Yeah, it is kind of separate. Who defeated Perfect Cell?
Goku—No, its Gohan.
Correct, what are one of Vegeta's signature attacks?
Correct, now we're going to drop some really difficult ones I don't know if you'll be able to answer these. How many days are in a year on Planet Namek?
One year in the hyperbolic time chamber?
No, on Planet Namek.
Yeah, one day earth time? That's in the time chamber that wasn't on planet Namek, so I don't know that one.
It's 130 days. Now, one of the most popular quotes from the series comes from Vegeta when he says, "It's Over 9000" in most versions of the english dub. But what is the actual number he says in the original manga and anime?
It's not, over 9000? Yeah I don't know, that one's hard. Over a million?
No, he originally said 8,000.
I remember him saying Frieza's strength was over a million in the Planet Namek arc.
What is Krillin's power level at the end of the series?
[laughs] Fuck, Krillin… I don't know what his power level is. Maybe like 645.
That's fair because I don't know either. So, arguably the top three rappers in the game are Kendrick, J. Cole, and Drake. What characters do you think they would be in Dragon Ball Z?
Drake would be Goku for sure because he fights evil and we've seen that with Meek Mill. He takes down the powers of evil and triumphs. J. Cole would be Krillin because he can rap but he's kind of uninteresting which is also like Krillin because he too can fight but he's boring. And Kendrick Lamar could be Piccolo because he kind of chills in the background.
Who do you think Jay- Z would be?
Kami because he's old as shit. But he's also very wise.
Jabbari Weekes thinks if Meek Mill was a DBZ character he would be Hercule. Follow him on Twitter.