Last week in the Japan Times, I caught up with R&B and hip-hop J-Pop artist AI to talk about her new album, among other topics.

There was a time when Japanese music labels were concerned that Ai Carina Uemura’s music sounded too American due to her R&B style.

“Like, from the beginning of my career. They told me all the time, ‘People aren’t going to understand that type of music,’” she says from the EMI office in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood. “I was like … why? They listen to Janet Jackson, Ashanti. Why can’t we do that type of music?”

It was important to Uemura (who performs under the stage name AI), who split time between Los Angeles and Kagoshima growing up. Her mother, raised in the United States, instilled a love of American music in her. She also prompted Uemura to learn more about the Japanese side of her family after relocating to the western side of the country.

Read it here.