In the cult classic, Jet Set Radio and its sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, an underground pirate radio station bumps beats through the sewers and onto the streets of Tokyo-to, a city overrun by oppressive police forces and street gangs. Years after the release of those games, a real-life DJ Professor K keeps the music alive, and I got to talk to him.
Jet Set Radio Live is the real-life analog to the in-game pirate radio station. One day while scouring the internet, I stumbled upon it and fell headfirst into a world of funk and freedom. Users can log on and share memes, chat with one another, and listen to the iconic soundtrack that fans can’t seem to get enough of. I was instantly intrigued by the site’s ringleader, known only as DJ Professor K. This enigmatic disc jockey fielded a few of my questions about the site itself, it’s origins and more and even did so in character. It turns out it all started with his exposure to the game in the first place.
“I was a kid myself, dreaming while peering into the pages of Dreamcast magazine looking at those beautiful Jet Set Radio screenshots. My mind was blown! I had never seen anything that looked like that before. As an owner of a Dreamcast myself, I was pumped to know this game would be hitting the console I owned! Many countless hours were spent getting JET ranking to unlock all those special characters, and the youth in me even fantasized about message board theories that DJ Professor K himself was unlockable and playable through a wide variety of impossible scenarios. Fast forward, as every year is another step into the future! I found myself opening a brand new Xbox. To my surprise, it came packaged with the JSRF/Sega GT combo disc. The sequel to Jet Set Radio?! I didn’t even know Jet Set Radio got a sequel… but that’s how I found out! It just came with the console for free… how fitting for a game that represented the future. That’s really how it all started, but what started would only marinate and resonate in the recesses of my mind and the minds of countless others who were touched by the soul of Jet Set Radio!!!”
A few years later, DJ Professor K would go from fan and admirer to downright pirate radio DJ. All he needed was a vision.
“Jet Set Radio Live started in January of 2016 when I woke up from a dream… in fact, you could argue I didn’t start Jet Set Radio Live. It started itself. I just had the skills to whip up an idea of what it would look like in the modern world.”
The website itself is an incredibly interactive experience. Users can log on and collaborate on a virtual wall, making hilarious or downright awesome art with each other. You can also tune in to Jet Set Radio LiveTV, chat with other rudies (as some fans call themselves) in the chatroom, and even customize your experience with themes and wallpapers. DJ Professor K doesn’t fancy himself a professional web developer but managed to create an immersive online experience using html 5 based web apps. He likes to think of the site as the future of the internet, and even has a few colorful ideas about the future of the world wide web.
“One day we’ll be using the internet to dive into deep internet-connected simulations. These types of social interactions will forever change our ability to share experiences and ideas…”
With the 24/7 music stream and vibrant community, I thought that jetsetradiolive would command most of the Professors time, but apparently, that isn’t the case.
“I use it just like everyone else. It’s meant to be a place where you don’t feel required to devote your time… you just drop by whenever the mood strikes you. If you’re bored, if you’re feeling creative, if you’re interested in a positive discussion, if something goes down… you know Jet Set Radio will be there for you. The people that gather on JSRL happen to be like-minded individuals who all share a desire to spread the concept of love.”
The people who gather on Jet Set Radio Live come from all across the planet. Most veterans on the site keep a constant conversation going, by checking in throughout the day, sharing memes, contributing artwork, and just promoting positive discussion. Personally, I’ve logged on a few times just to share memories with other JSRF fans, who always seem ready to share their favorite experiences. We also spend quite a bit of time speculating about what’s next for the series!
“Before we see a new game we definitely need a remaster. There’s an importance to understanding the history of Jet Set Radio. There’s always going to be a controversy over which game is better because there is such a stark change in approach between the two games. But it’s also important to note JSRF is not a direct sequel.”
He also proposed something I had never even thought of.
“The best thing that could happen for the series is for players to get online and start marking their territory! By incorporating social garage hangouts, turf wars, missions that require players to work together, custom players and graffiti. We could really see the world of Jet Set Radio come to life in the way it deserves!”
Being such an enigmatic figure and a standout member of the cult following behind these games, I simply had to pick his brain about things like music and graffiti. Specifically, the game’ effect on his taste in music and his views on street art. Like so many fans, JSRF had a large influence on DJ Professor K’s opinion of music.
“If you liked Jet Set Radio it without a doubt influenced both your taste in music and art. Music and color have a much larger effect on us than we realize. The future of music is a remix! It takes sounds that have been effective in the past, it creates a feeling of nostalgia and happiness, and then it remixes them with new ideas. In this process, we discover and create something new. The remixes and sounds of Jet Set Radio are a reminder of how strong and revolutionary remixed music can be.”
In Jet Set Radio, when you aren’t running from police or racing rival gang members, you’re covering the city of Tokyo-to in beautiful art. Each gang has its own distinct style and accompanying message, and in Jet Set Radio Future, players were even allowed to create their own tags. Street art and the democratization of expression in the wake of corporations and governments is as integral to the series as the iconic soundtrack. DJ Professor K had more to say on the topic:
“The world has seen its fair share of negative graffiti over the years but we are also at a point where we can respect graffiti and the freedom of expression that it represents. Every culture uses artwork to represent themselves in some way or another and if society is determined to use graffiti in a positive way it could paint the world in a colorful canvas that represented love & peace, not division and hate.”
I remember picking up Jet Set Radio for the first time on a JSRF/Sega GT combo disc. From the moment I booted the game up, I was hooked. It’s anti-authoritarian message, vibrant colors, beautiful graffiti, and wacky world clicked with me in a way no other game had. It’s movement system was fluid and frenetic and I wouldn’t see such similarly satisfying movement in games until Sunset Overdrive or even Spiderman. All these years later, I’m still pining for another HD release of Jet Set Radio or JSRF, and the Nintendo Switch is where I’d like to see it next. And while I’ve waited years for a sequel, being able to log on to Jet Set Radio Live and immerse myself in the world of JSR in such a novel way is something I wholeheartedly enjoy. It never fails to put a smile on my face, and for that I am forever grateful to Hideki Naganuma and DJ Professor K, for creating a place where rudies can go listen to the sounds of a game they love so very much.