BALLISTIK BOYZ from EXILE TRIBE: Only going HIGHER on their 5th Anniversary!

If you’re a fan of J-pop, what do you remember about your first impressions of it? For me, it was the Japanese idol musical girl group AKB48, but after just a few listens to their music, the group’s cutesy image and bubblegum pop style weren’t my thing, so with that, I closed the book to my short-lived J-pop exploration.

Years later, I can now say I know better! With the resurgence of J-pop’s popularity in recent years, I learned that J-pop is far from a monolith, with a diverse landscape of groups not limited to a single genre of music.

One group setting an example of this would be BALLISTIK BOYZ from EXILE TRIBE, a seven-member Japanese male dance, vocal, and MC unit part of the collective EXILE TRIBE! Though their sound is rooted in hip-hop, they’ve dabbled in a diversity of genres, and their talents serve to let them push the limits of J-pop! 

The group is celebrating their fifth year together, coinciding it with the release of their 8th single, “HIGHER EX”, the kickoff song of their tour BALLISTIK BOYZ LIVE TOUR 2024! With their anniversary celebrations abuzz and their tour currently ongoing, I was lucky to snag a quick online chat with members Ryuta Hidaka, Yoshiyuki Kano, Ryusei Kainuma, Miku Fukahori, Rikiya Okuda, Masahiro Sunada, and Riki Matsui! I won’t lie when I say I was absolutely starstruck just being able to exchange a couple of words with them.

From their 5th anniversary to their goals as a team, and their latest song, “HIGHER EX”, you’ve come to the right place if you want to learn more about the group! Here’s everything we talked about!

5th Anniversary and Goals

Five years seems like a long time for a group, but as Ryuta Hidaka aptly puts it, “It’s been 5 years already, but also, it’s still only been 5 years.” And what a time it has been! Only he and Yoshiyuki Kano were adults when they first debuted, while the rest were considered minors. Now, the entire group are over 20 years old, and to Ryuta, they’ve all become “adults”.

Ryuta says it’s been five years already since debut; time truly flies!

Adolescence is the prime time of self-discovery and identity formation. At that age, you begin to establish a sense of who you are and your place in the world. So, going through adolescence while being under the spotlight would be an intimidating challenge for most. But for BALLISTIK BOYZ, it seems that, at least for their identity as artists, they managed to establish a clear image of who BALLISTIK BOYZ are.

In 2019, the group debuted with the song “TENHANE 1000%”, a bombastic, hip-hop track chock-full of piercing, attention-grabbing whistles. As the first ensemble from supergroup EXILE TRIBE to have all members hold microphones to dance, sing, and rap, it was unsurprising that they laid out all their trump cards from the get-go. At one point during the song’s dance break, all seven members even did a perfectly synchronised backflip!

And it’s not just their well-roundedness that makes BALLISTIK BOYZ stand out. From what I learnt, all of them can play instruments, do acrobatics (obviously, seeing their perfectly in sync backflip), and are all actively involved in the group’s production and creative direction.

It’s impressive how the group has come this far as successful artists, but I was even more impressed by what Ryuta humbly stated. While he believes that as individuals, each member has found their “own character” and what they want to do, the group still has the same dream of steadily building up the originality of BALLISTIK BOYZ through their music and performances. 

Yoshiyuki also remarked that as the group marks their 5th anniversary, they’ve realised the importance of setting detailed goals to make their dreams come true. ”I think the Budokan concert in November is one such example!” he excitedly shared.

Yoshiyuki shares the group’s greatest achievement so far — their upcoming concert at Nippon Budokan!

If you don’t know what Budokan is, it’s short for Nippon Budokan, an indoor arena in Tokyo. It’s famed to be one of the world’s most outstanding musical performance venues, with famous acts appearing, such as The Beatles, and the supergroup ABBA’s last live performance. In short, it is the premier venue for live concerts in Tokyo, so proud is probably an understatement for fans of the group as they’ll be taking such a big stage solo for the first time in their careers.


Aside from celebrating their 5th anniversary on 22 May 2019, the release of BALLISTIK BOYZ’s 8th single, “HIGHER EX” perfectly coincides with their anniversary! What makes it extra special is it is the group’s first-ever self-written title track.

The song is a testament to their artistic evolution, with brassy energy over powerful trap beats highlighted alongside the group’s confident vocal and rap performance. As to the song’s message, Miku shared the inspiration behind it: “We were frustrated by some of the goals we were unable to achieve last year; however, this song reflects our determination to reach even greater heights without being discouraged.”

Even though there were frustrations over unachieved goals, Miku shared that HIGHER EX reflects their determination to go higher!

And you can definitely feel the determination. Rikiya also stated what the group hopes fans can take away from the track: “We hope that our fans can feel our determination to reach higher in the future and feel our way of life through this new song. We really put ourselves in this song, and we wanted our fans to feel that passion, so we wrote the lyrics straight from our hearts!”

You can take a look for yourself:

I won’t let go of my friends and the microphone
I’m growing wings to fly as much as I can
I’ll risk my life until the end
BBZ I’ll do everything with my own hands
Here We don’t have time to stand still
We’ll run for the sake of our family, friends, and everyone until the future

Even just from hearing the members vigorously and aggressively rap these lyrics over the powerful beat, the message they envisioned to life is crystal clear. I’m sure the song’s message will hit long-time followers and fans of the group ten times harder than I could ever feel. 

Rikiya, along with the rest of BALLISTIK BOYZ, were behind the passionate lyrics of HIGHER EX

Beyond representing the group’s admirable determination, the song also kicks off their upcoming tour! Seeing the tour make significant stops such as the Budokan arena Yoshiyuki mentioned, I believe no other song is more befitting of this significant achievement.


In their first five years together, BALLISTIK BOYZ have established themselves by achieving monumental accomplishments any artist could only dream of. Just seeing what their self-titled debut album alone achieved (i.e. taking the No.1 spot on the Billboard Japan Hot Albums chart, the Billboard Japan Top Album Sales chart, and Spotify’s Viral chart!), it seems there’s nothing the group can’t do.

As global artists, they’ve successfully attempted to woo global audiences with their music and cultural exchanges with Thailand. So when Ryuta mentioned that a world stadium tour is the group’s “big dream” after celebrating their 5th anniversary, it sounded like the perfect next big step they should take!

“Our big dream remains the same: a world stadium tour. Our goals for the near future are an arena tour in Japan and an Asian tour. We want to make steady progress, one step at a time!”

Ballistik Boyz from EXILE TRIBE

It was a shame that I could only hear from the group briefly, but nothing good lasts forever. However, after learning about BALLISTIK BOYZ’s success and them as a group, it feels like they can only go higher from here. Everything they’ve succeeded in just the short span of five years just means the only for BALLISTIK BOYZ is up!

For all who haven’t heard of BALLISTIK BOYZ and their latest single, “HIGHER EX”, there’s no better time than the present! Check out their official YouTube Channel, Spotify Artist’s Page, and Instagram profile, and I promise you won’t regret it.

Visuals Courtesy of BALLISTIK BOYZ and LDH.

Glenda Chong

Down to yap about anything related to K-Pop and pop culture anytime, anywhere.

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