On Halloween weekend in 2016 at Shibuya Club Quattro, a mysterious masked figure came out on stage to fiddle with the laptop. An electronic noise started, stopped, started again, and then turned into a song. Lights started flashing and the figure ripped off the mask to reveal DJ Gonchi as a Conehead, and dancing onto the stage was another Coneheaded MC Itsuka.
The electric rap duo of Charisma.com ripped through their first three songs on Halloween weekend without a pause, and then MC Itsuka addressed the audience. “Gokigenyou,” she said, the typical Charisma.com greeting. Itsuka directed everyone’s attention to Gonchi, but in the middle of introducing her, said, “Ah – I’m sorry, but she is not DJ Misoshiru,” referring to another female DJ who performs with another female rapper. The audience erupted into laughter. “The resemblance is there, but no.”
Charisma.com is made up of two school friends who formed the dance/rap unit when both were working as OL, or office ladies. The band has become known as an “OL unit,” but soon after this concert, they would announce they were quitting their jobs to release a full-length album (they said, instead of OLs, from this day forward they would be CEOs).
Their lyrics and stage presence attack social pretense and ideas about politeness: the lead single from their debut EP, Ai Ai Syndrome, was just titled “Hate.” The music video features Itsuka and Gonchi in sleek bob haircuts and lacy off-white dresses, sitting at a vintage table with plates full of flowers while figures in black bodysuits dance mechanically behind them. Halfway through the music video, Gonchi, smiling at the camera, kills the black figures with a series of different weapons, in a spray of CGI lime green blood. “You are cool,” sings Itsuka. “But fool.”
The 2013 album was a start into a new world of genre and gender. Itsuka said in an interview with the international music website MTV81 that when Charisma.com was first formed, she had a lot of anger, so it naturally came out in their music. But the response has been not one of rejection to the anger, but a recognition of it. “Hate” stands at over two million views on YouTube, as does the music video for “Iinazuke Blue” from their first full-length album.
The duo played “Mamemame Boy Gasatsu Girl” next, directing a call and response. The audience called out, “Mamemame boy,” while Gonchi responded, “I’m a gasatsu girl” – “Hardworking boy, I’m a rude girl.”
Itsuka’s deadpan humor and ambulatory command of the stage matched Gonchi’s sly smile and unwavering presence behind the laptop (except, of course, when she ran to the front of the stage for “Otsubone Rock” to place a ladder like the one in the song’s music video and briefly pose on it center stage with Itsuka).
The concert was a multi-band performance showcasing women musicians, Girl’s Pic, and after Charisma.com’s relentless set, matched with green lasers and a dancing crowd, the two artists crossed to the left side of the venue to talk to the Girl’s Pic MC’s.
One of the two MC’s, who said she was still 18, said, “I’ve never been to a club before, but that made me want to try going.”
“Ah, but you won’t find this sort of thing in clubs,” said Itsuka, adjusting her Conehead.
It is highly doubtful that you would find that sort of thing anywhere but a Charisma.com concert.