Dexter Thomas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and correspondent for VICE News, came to DePauw on Tuesday, September 13, to give a talk titled “Japanese Rap Music and Remixing the News.”
JP Olsen, the new director of the Pulliam Center, described Thomas as “a scholar who does it all very well.” Thomas is also the first speaker who brought Olsen to DePauw as the new director.
Thomas’ presentation on Tuesday evening was about his research into Japanese hip-hop music, in particular the contribution of a Japanese manga artist named Yutsuko Chūsonji and her series ‘Wild Q’ to Japanese hip-hop culture. Thomas called the series “hip-hop edutainment,” where Chūsonji taught Japanese about hip-hop culture and vocabulary at the time. Thomas viewed manga as an educational force like TikTok and any accessible medium.
After the presentation Thomas let the audience be virtual reality interview, which was part of a project on VICE News. In the interview, the audience could see a panda and a cat talking to each other as a representation of Thomas and his interviewee, respectively, in real life.
When asked about the motivation behind his decision to use virtual reality technology, Thomas said he had to convince his colleagues that the interview should be done that way.
“I saw [the interviewee] at the same time the rest of the world saw him. I didn’t want to see anyone but that little black cat… That’s how people treat each other,” Thomas said.
He added that this form of communication deserved to be treated seriously rather than considered “weird people playing in virtual reality”.
According to Thomas, virtual reality was just one of many things he’s done. He has no beat because he is interested in culture, which he defined as “anything that keeps you on the couch and getting off the couch to go do something, which means everything.”
Thomas also shared that he has built his career doing what he loves most without any expectation of success. He said that while there are many people who are experts in Japanese hip-hop music, many who know a lot about video games and still many who are well versed in Japanese disco history, there are only a few people like him who know them all.
“What I’m saying is that I had no idea that the things I was working on would be anything of value in the future. But when I look back, I can realize that all the things I used to do, when I started a hobby, made me learn everything about this thing that seems very silly to other people… At some point you start to become in the middle of this very, very rare Venn diagram,” Thomas said.
More information about Dexter Thomas and his works can be found at: www.whatupdex.com.