Yamaarashi - Shounan Miraiezu – 4/5
In honour of Hip-Hop now being officially allowed for discussion in the forums, I thought it appropriate to bump this one on my list. It's almost strange how of all the western styles adopted by the flourishing Japanese music scene, Hip-Hop seems to have drawn the short straw as it were. There are Pop/Hip-Hop artists like “Halcali,” or “Orange Range,” Hip-Hop/RnB such as “M-Flo,” or “Kreva,” and indeed Hip-Hop/Rock like the band in question now. Of course it could be coincidence that finding straight-up Hip-Hop artists from Japan seems like a bit of a chore, or simply that my observations of J-pop present themselves once more; that even the most simplistic styles of music often has an immense amount of thought given to the multiple backing layers, something Hip-Hop often finds itself lacking.
One of the most frequently heard criticisms of the genre is that there's too much of a lyrical focus, but there is more to it than that – there has to be here, unless you happen to be fluent in Japanese – and it is the flow that in this case makes the vocals important. The manner they gently meander with an unrelenting stream of words, hell he could be scatting for all the difference it would make to me, but it's being utilised as another instrument with clear variation between the staccato verses and the epic clean chorus lines that just dare you not to at least hum along; the in your face 'party boy' tone exemplified by the “Beastie Boys” contrasted with the slow and emotional, almost grungy tones.
Yet, the lyrics are again only one half of this band, and the backing instrumentation is certainly not forgotten; from the very beginning the bass starts to make itself known and you could swear you'd stumbled onto a forgotten “Rage Against the Machine” track, filling the music with fun funk-filled bass lines and when the guitars are given precedence the whole thing suddenly feels like “Sublime” got loose during the recording process, adding their smooth blend of reggae and ska to the proceedings. The influences are numerous (just listen out for the brief Japanese “Knocking on Heaven's Door” chorus) but never feel less than coherent, allowing each track to feel distinct from the last. It's been nearly two decades since the 'Chilli Peppers' emerged with “Blood Sugar Sex Magick,” 15 since Beastie Boys' “Sabotage,” and this feels like the sort of release rap/rock release fans have been waiting for since.
Highlights: Shonan Graphical Future, Technica Porcupine, Go Your Way