Nihongo Rap Breakdown – Ep 131 Debriefing

Okay, recuperation so this is late, like everything else is on this site. Sorry.

But anyway, here we go with a breakdown for the last episode in the Nihongo Rap (=”Japanese Rap”) series – ep 131, “Hansei Shitemaasu“, which roughly translates to “I’m soooorrryyy”. The cuts are, in general, about regret, the past, and/or looking forward to the future.

You can play it below, or go check the original post here.

Note that this is only the tracklist – I will be breaking down the actual skit in a future article. You will want to read this.

In the meantime, though, let’s get with these tracks:

MINT – Isoganakya (Gotta Hurry). Somebody feel free to call me out on this, but I forget who actually did this cut first (seriously, someone remind me). Point is, though – it doesn’t matter, because this song is better than that song. @minchanbaby

Cherry Brown – Hayai (Pyuun!) (Fast (Zoom)). I’m not really sure why I didn’t put Cherry Brown in the first episode, but, well, here he is. I think he showed up in The Source Japan (yes, we had one, for like four months), but I lent that issue to my friend and can’t find it now. Cherry makes a lot of weird music – like, a lot – and also produces under the name of Lil’ Yukichi. He also happens to be one of the people who are spearheading this new wave of mixtapes in the Nihongo Rap scene.

A-Thug – Ori no Naka (In the Pen). So this cut is, thematically, pretty easy to understand – references to Scarface, and dude talking about how he spent time in jail, and about his life selling crack. My favorite line:

Heizu to ekusutashii
Haze and ecstasy

Burazzu to tsurumi
Hanging with Bloods*

Kurakku wo tsukuri
Cooking crack

Burokku wo shikiri
Running the block

Gurokku wo nigiri, ah
Gripping Glocks, uh

*I really hope that I’m hearing this incorrectly. Please, let this be wrong.

This sort of talk, of course, is completely unbelievable, and I will personally mail you a dollar if you are able to find five Japanese people that know what the word “Glock” even means. It still sounds cool, though, which is what matters. m/athugscars

AKLO – Chance. From the Aklo 2.0 mixtape, which I recommend – if only for dude’s version of “Forever”. Incidentally, Aklo is also partially the inspiration behind me even doing this series – we had more than a few conversations about the state of Nihongo Rap, and own stance on the importance of mixtapes. Very, very bright dude. This isn’t the best song on the tape, by far – it just fit the theme. m/aklosound

GAGLE – Yuki no Kakumei (Snow Revolution). I swear I’ve heard this sample somewhere – does anyone have any leads? Anyway, Gagle is a pretty respected part of the scene, despite their being from Sendai. I should probably talk more about this at some point, but for a very long time, the general understanding was that if it wasn’t from Tokyo, it wasn’t hip-hop, and it wasn’t worth listening to (though you could argue that Hokkaido natives Tha Blue Herb straightened that out three years before this jawn dropped). This cut is easily my favorite off their 3 Men On Wax record.

PRIMAL , DJ Kohaku, CHIYORI, 02 – Butaiura (Greenroom). Off of DJ Muta’s Character Pack mixtape – which, if you can find, is pretty good. The beat is People Under The Stairs’ Acid Raindrops – and I keep saying this, but seriously, this cut is much better than the original. DJ MUTA’s blog

MINT – “YEAH”de gomakashiteiru (playing it off by saying “yeah”). Okay, that’s a terrible translation, sorry. Anyway, seriously kids, MINT just really goes hard. I was actually done mixing down this episode and chanced upon this cut on dude’s twitter, and absolutely had to fit it in. The hook is really simple, and lyrically actually sort of cheesy, but it’s still just bananas:

Ore wa zutto kono mama/kitto tabun koko nanda
Definitely, probably I’ll always be here

YEAH de gomakashiteru Jibun no ibasho sagashiteru
Playing it off, saying “yeah” searching for my place

Have I mentioned that I’m a terrible translator? I’m a terrible translator. Just trust me, this is a good song.

So that’s what it is for this one – if you have any questions, want to hear on any specific artist, I’m thinking of doing posts on individual artists. Or, you know, if you have comments on the series in general, definitely let me know, either here or via twitter (@dexdigi).

Also, stay on the lookout for the aforementioned article breaking down the skit, and the “Hansei Shitemaaasu” line. It’s shaping up to be pretty interesting.

Nihongo Rap Breakdown – Ep 129 Debriefing

yo. So I’m a little late with this, buy information pills but I figured it’d be nice to throw up a little breakdown for the last episode. So, refractionist for those who don’t speak moontalk, find this is for you.

In the intro, I said absolutely nothing of importance. Same goes for the outro. Not that that is surprising at all.

On to the artists:

Super Smoky Soul – you’ve actually heard them here before.

S.L.A.C.K. – I actually met this dude, maybe slightly before people started really freaking out about him. His rap style is sorta weird – he slurs his Rs, his intonation is bizarre, and he doesn’t pretend to talk about anything of any great importance. This, believe it or not, is sort of important.

example (warning: awkward translation):
なんて適当にさ 話してる夕方が透き通ってさ   Like just whatever, we talk all night
なんて適当にさ 話してるやつが大好きでさ I like people that just talk like whatever
なんて適当にさ 適当って言葉が大好きでさ Like just whatever, I like the word “whatever”

Here’s a video off the same record, “My Space”:

S.L.A.C.K – Good More.

Don’t miss the bonus snippet at the end for Deep Kiss, probably one of the best midnight skateboard tracks in recent memory.
Norikiyo – a central member of SD Junksta, one of a handful of acts that has essentially been carrying the scene on their backs since the mid 2000s. Norikiyo is very, very recommended. Topically this is a lot of ‘streets is live’ stuff. This version is a remix done by Punpee, who is actually the above mentioned S.L.A.C.K’s brother. Punpee, while being on a totally different pole from, say, Bach Logic, is easily one of the most important producers right now.

M.T.Z – This is actually a friend of mine – I’d say a classmate, but I spend very little time on campus, so yeah. This is actually over an old Planet Asia beat, and one of only two tracks dude has ever recorded (he’s more known in the organization/freestyle circuit). Lyrically, as you can probably tell, this is way more complex and on some ‘sucker MCs’ kind of angle. He’s also a political science grad student at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, so maybe that makes sense.

Actually, lemme tell a story about this dude. One time we were on the 8th floor of our (newly constructed) school building, and I’d brought my skateboard to class. He comes up, laughing at me for riding my skateboard to class, and asks if he can try it (he’s never ridden one before) and I’m like yo, are you sure it’s okay? I mean, we’re indoors.

He gives me this dead serious look, the same look he gets on his face when he’s reading Marx, and says “Yes. This is our space. It belongs to the people”. And proceeds to skate on the brand new carpet.

AKLO – Player. My first encounter with this dude, he was trying to do a kickflip indoors at a bar I had played a show at, slipped off the board, and almost broke my shins. After his recent mixtape AKLO 2.0, I’d have to say that this dude is easily one of the most important forces in recent Nihongo Rap history. He’s only got one record out, but his mixtape game is seriously putting pressure on the rest of the scene, which to this point has been pretty lazy as far as release pace is concerned. Then we’ve got the producer, Ham-R, who also appeared on Seeda’s most recent record (raps and production). Aside from the coked out synths, I recommend paying attention to what he’s doing with his snares – even Bach Logic isn’t really touching this.

MINT – 変形合体 (“henkei gattai”). I’m not really sure how you translate this – the first part is like “transform” (as in “transformers” – get the reference to the original track now?) and the second is like “union”. So basically if you think about Robotron or maybe Power Rangers when they made that big robot or whatever (I hated that show, so I don’t really remember), that’s the idea.

Anyway, Mint is a pretty weird dude. I think a lot of Nihongo Rap fans might know him best from 韻踏合組合 (loosely, and lamely translated, “rhyme association”), but apparently he ditched that group in like 04. A lot of his rhymes are pretty juvenile, complete with crude sex references (think really hard about where you could go with the image of robots transforming/combining into one) and entire songs dedicated to his favorite anime shows, but really this guy is one of my favorite rappers, period right now. And, as I said in the original article, his version of the Chris Brown joint is far, far superior to the original, and I will gladly internet fight anyone who disagrees with me.

Be on the lookout for more Mint in an upcoming jawn. (thanks for reminding me, Timm)

Hannya – Blog #50. Instead of a blog, Hannya releases a new freestyle every week. Each of them are sort of upsettingly good. In this one, he’s (among other things) dissing the Japanese edition of Source Magazine, which I agree with, because while it was nice to have a hip-hop magazine in Japan, it was very irresponsibly written, and probably never should have been released. After 3 issues it died out, though, so whatever. I very highly recommend checking out Hannya’s most recent record, HANNYA – it was probably my favorite record of 2009.

Essencial – Bomb Rush Freestyle. Off of the Backyard Vol 1 mixtape. I think most people remember Smith CN (the first rapper) more than his counterpart, which I guess is unavoidable. Dude’s voice is just that bugged out. Smith CN himself has a new record out – I’ve only heard one cut, but it is very recommended.

a.z – untitled (off a beat CD I got from Mori). I have played at a few events with her, and still don’t quite get it. She’s the producer for a few acts around Tokyo, but the word is that she never listens to hip-hop, at all. She just makes the beats, gives them out, and gets back to work. Really weird, but recently she’s been putting out some nice material. This is probably a good name to keep an eye on.

and that’s it. Now, go back, listen to the Nihongo Rap episode again. And stay tuned for the next installment.

Hell, are people interested in this sort of thing? If you are, I’ll keep doing these and breaking them down – if not…I’ll probably do it anyway, but it’s nice to know what people are interested in.

More Akira / Rap stuff

okay, approved well there’s not all that much rap in here, but this is something worth checking out.

I did a post on Sabotage Party’s Holding the Crown video with the Akira visuals a while ago, and we all remember Kanye’s attempt. But now Mark from Eyetape, who you might remember from this site the last time I posted on them, has just dropped a very unofficial, very bootleg but actually pretty cool Akira “trailer”.

Akira: The Kaneda Short Film from Eye Tape on Vimeo.

So aside from the fact that this thing is extremely well done, especially considering the budget – there is some actual rappidy rap in here. Seeda, who you might remember from my quick breakdown of Dear Japan I did forever ago – appears (without his explicit permisson) with the first part of “Lost Heaven”. If you’ve never heard the track you might miss this, but the editing is actually pretty smart at the beginning – those sound effects from the CD changer weren’t added in postproduction – that’s part of the actual song.

This is sort of an interesting project – an absolutely unauthorized – both in terms of soundtrack and film (I’m assuming that “90% guerilla” means “90% of this stuff wasn’t cleared with city authorities”) trailer of a Japanese film made by a kid raised in the States. Using a soundtrack spotlighting a Japanese artist using a quote un quote “American” artform.

For those of us born in the mid 80s and later, on both sides of the river, these “boundaries” are really starting to take on new meanings. I’m not saying they’re going away, but stuff’s starting to get interesting. I mean, look at the Golden Cartridge series (vol 1, vol 2) or the original Nintendo mixtape, man. We’ve got a generation of American kids influenced by Japanese machines, and a generation of Japanese kids influenced by recordings of American kids yelling into a box. Of course, there’s the negative side, which we’ve discussed here before in part, but still.

But forget that, watch the video. The set work in this video is also pretty dope – the bar actually looks like the original place from the film. I think I’m going to have to go rent this movie again.

In the meantime, holler at Eyetape.

Nihongo Rap Breakdown – Seeda – Dear Japan

A lot of people have been asking me what the deal is with Japanese hip-hop1 is, web I’ve been sort of meaning to do this for a while, so let’s get into it – a proper (sort of) review/breakdown on a Japanese rap joint (ps – “Nihongo” = Japanese for “Japanese language”).

So let me make something clear upfront.

First off, after being here for over a year, I think I can say with confidence that a large portion of Japanese hip-hop is not very good2. I would actually go as far to say that a good portion of it is actually completely unlistenable, and that any non-native speaker of Japanese who claims to prefer Japanese rap over, say, its American counterpart is either very very familiar with the underground scene here, or lacks musical taste.2.5

This coming from someone who only has Japanese rap in his mp3 player.

Second, I should also say here if someone asked me who my favorite Japanese rapper was, at this point in time I’d have to say Seeda. It is also an undisputable fact my opinion that his last album is a landmark record in Japanese rap history, is the best Japanese rap record out right now, and is going to be a major force in what happens over the next couple years in the scene. So if you want to call me biased, sure, I’m biased. But then again, I’m not really known for talking much on this site about things I don’t like.

Second point five, people who have been following the show might recognize the Seeda from the mildly infamous Niggas and Bitches episode (Seeda isn’t the rapper whose lyrics I took up, though – that was Oki). Yes, this is the dude who shared a mic with that rapper in the video. Possibly something to keep in mind as you read this.

Third, I’m going to try to avoid making really broad generalizations about Japanese society/politics – partially because such generalizations aren’t possible, and partially because if you wanna know more about society/politics, there are better places to learn about that than from me. As good as I am at hiding it, I actually don’t know anything about anything, and encourage you to do your own research.

So, on to the track itself. This one is called Dear Japan, by Seeda, produced by Bach Logic. I actually heard this maybe four or so months ago when Seeda put it up for a couple days on his myspace, and actually liked it enough to want to drop it on the show. Didn’t happen, obviously.

Okay, let’s get to the video already:

Seeda – Dear Japan (prod. Bach Logic)

The first thing that you will notice is that dude stares at the camera for like fifteen full seconds before he even says a word. If I may be permitted to say something here about dude (Seedaさん、気を悪くしないで下さいね), dude kinda has a crazy look in his eye. And he continues to make really skurry faces at the camera for the whole video. So if that makes you uncomfortable, yeah.

Lyrical breakdown, background, and wild, baseless speculations after the jump.
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