In 1998 Bape wasn’t quite the empire it is now, and the brand was exploring new ideas such as putting on an annual concert featuring Bape’s founder Nigo’s friends and favourite artists.
Bape was founded in Japan by Nigo in 1993 with the designer Sk8thing. They started giving t-shirts to musician Keigo Oyamada (aka Cornelius) who wore them during his performances which helped promote the brand.
In 1997 Nigo organised a series of Apehead Shows which featured Nigo, Cornelius, Scha Dara Parr, Takagi Kan, and others performing. But in 1998 Nigo wanted to do something even more special, and he put on one big show at Tokyo’s Akasaka Blitz featuring his musician friends and collaborators from all over the world.
A Bathing Ape presents Worldwide Bapeheads Show 1998
1998’s show included performances from Cornelius, Scha Dara Parr, Ben Lee, Money Mark, and UNKLE, and the show was recorded for a TV program which aired in 1999 and was luckily copied and later uploaded to the internet. Sometime around 2011 the show was available on YouTube cut in to nine seperate parts, but unfortunately it was later removed. In 2018 I managed to find these online again and joined them back up into one video, which is once more available on YouTube.
The video goes for just over an hour, and contains interviews with Nigo in between each musical performance as he explains why he chose the specific guest, as well as a short overview of the history of Bape and the Bapeheads Tour.
In 1998 UNKLE had released their debut album Psyence Fiction to great aclaim. The album featured production by DJ Shadow, and guest vocals from Richard Ashcroft and Thom Yorke among others. Following the albums release DJ Shadow had moved on to other projects, so UNKLE’s founder James Lavelle was left to tour by himself.
Rather than put on a solo DJ set, Lavelle teamed up with Tony Vegas and Plus One of the turntablist crew Scratch Perverts to create a live version of the album, with dates set for the beginning of 1999. But when Lavelle heard about the Worldwide Bapeshow he asked Nigo if he could perform to help him warm up for the 1999 tour. Nigo agreed on the condition that UNKLE performed with Takagi Kan, who had featured on UNKLE’s Last Orgy 3, a Japan only release.
James Lavelle and Nigo had been friends for several years, with the pair collaborating on the mix CD A Bathing Ape Vs Mo’Wax, and Lavelle later released Nigo’s album Ape Sounds on his Mo’ Wax record label.
UNKLE begin their set by playing songs from Psyence Fiction, with both members of the Scratch Perverts on one side of the stage, and James Lavelle on the other. Each member has their own set of turntables, with the Scratch Perverts demonstrating their skills with a massive turntable freestyle featuring elements of the song Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, another Nigo and UNKLE collaboration which featured the Scratch Perverts. Their set ends with Takagi Kan of Major Force joining the stage to perform Last Orgy 3.
Ben Lee released his debut album in 1995 on the Beastie Boys’ record label Grand Royal, and in 1998 he was preparing to launch his third album Breathing Tornados. Lee only performs one song for the Bapeheads TV program, Nighttime from his new album. Breathing Tornados was released in 1998 in Lee’s home country of Australia before being made available worldwide in 1999. Nigo had heard a promo of the album when he decided to invite Lee on the tour, and Nigo and Ben Lee worked together again when he contributed to Nigo’s Ape Sounds album. Ben Lee also appeared on a Bape t-shirt which features his face in the Bape logo design.
Money Mark was signed to the Grand Royal and Mo’ Wax record labels, and released his debut album in 1995. This was followed in 1998 with his second album Push The Button, and while touring in Japan at this time Nigo saw Mark play and invited him to join the tour. At the same time Nigo invited Mark to contribute to his album Ape Sounds, and Mark agreed to both.
At the beginning of the TV program Nigo revealed that Money Mark didn’t like wearing camouflage, so he had a special jacket made for him so he could still wear BAPE, and this is the jacket Mark wore during his performance.
Mark begins his performance with a horror movie inspired introduction before moving in to Cry, his first single on Mo’ Wax from 1995. He then ends his set with a song where he uses a balloon to play a trumpet, and a performance playing a kazoo and the drums at the same time.
Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) had performed at one of the 1997 Apehead Shows as the closing act, and Nigo was a big fan so he invited Cornelius back again.
In 1997 Cornelius released the album Fantasma, and two songs from the album are featured in their set from 1998’s show. Count Five Or Six and Monkey were both performed alongside Brand New Season from 1995’s 69/96 album, and the non album track E.
An early supporter of Bape, Cornelius also collaborated with Bape on a series of t-shirts in 1997 promoting his album Fantasma, and he has appeared on magazine covers with Nigo wearing Bape clothing. Cornelius later appeared as one of the guests on Nigo’s Ape Sounds album, and also contributed to Teriyaki Boyz albums Beef Or Chicken and Serious Japanese which both also feature contributions from Nigo.
Scha Dara Parr
Scha Dara Parr (SDP) were one of Japan’s first Hip Hop groups, forming in 1988, and have released music reguarly. Their most recent album was released in 2017.
In the TV program Nigo explained that, much like Cornelius, he can’t miss SDP when they perform, and that they are his favourites. SDP are the final act in the Worldwide Bapeheads Show and also have one of the longest sets, featuring songs from their 1997 album Fun-Key LP, and 1994’s Scha Dara Gaiden.
During their performance SDP are joined by Roboago (aka Robo Chu) at the end of their set for several songs before they are joined by all of the artists who performed, including Nigo at the very end, who are all brought out to say goodbye to the audience.
The Next Bapeheads Tour
At the end of the video of 1998’s tour, Nigo says that he would like to organise another show, and the tour would continue in 1999 featuring artists such as Takako Minekaw. Since then it has become an annual event, and in 2000 many of the artists who performed in 1998 returned, with Nigo, Takagi Kan, Scha Dara Parr, James Lavelle, and Ben Lee all performing.
Over the years the tour has featured guests such as Kanye West, N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, and Pusha T. The shows have also moved outside of Japan, and in 2018 it was held in New York, with a show in Madison Square Gardens. But by then Bape had changed again.
In 2013 Nigo left Bape, and now works with Human Made and Billionaire Boys Club. Since 1998 he has continued to have a hand in music, as a solo artist and member of Teriyaki Boyz, and most recently Nigo has been working with the Japanese group BILLIE IDLE as executive producer and art director for their albums.