Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sun Murder: The Best of Japanese Underground Hip Hop (International Transport Volume 2)

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International Transport Volume 2: Sun Murder
(Re-upped May 14 - please right-click to download rather than streaming, this link has limited bandwidth.)

Over the course of three years digging into Japanese hip hop, I’ve discovered tons of amazing artists.  What I’ve also discovered is that, even in this amazing digital age, this stuff can be tough to get for people outside of Japan.  So, here’s my first shot to remedy that – a nearly hour-long mix of my favorite underground tracks from Japan.  I start it off a little easy on y’all, but most of these qualify as weird. Tracklisting and some pretty extensive notes after the break – maybe that’ll make things a little easier going.  (Also, if you have trouble with the link, please leave a comment – I’m still a bit rusty at this stuff.)

  1. Infumiai Kumiai – Just Rhyming
  2. Origami – Naigai [Abroad]
 3. Kan feat. Rumi and Kemui - Hakai to Saisei [Destruction and Rebirth]
  4.    Kochitola Haguretic MCs – Suppaku Omohikuchinisu [Sour Mouth!]
 5.    Rumi – Heso-Cha
 6.    Amida – Happyakuman [Eight Million Gods]
  7.    Shingo Nishinari – Kimi no Tonari [By Your Side]
  8.    Deep Throat X – Okuzaki-X
  9.    C.I.A. Zoo – Blunt and Fire [feat. Ace]
10.   Killer Bong – Five Finger Addias Superstar
11.   MSC – Shinjuku Running Dogs
12.   Origami – Sanzu [River Styx]
13.   DJ Baku feat Killer Bong – Terroriddim, Vyavah Version
14.   Doobeeis – Purple Rain

Notes on the Tracks:

     1.       Infumiai Kumiai – Just Rhyming
Infumiai Kumiai are from Osaka, and were the starting point for Ebisu Beats, who I consider Japan’s best working producer.  He makes very traditional stuff, but on tracks like this one, he makes it as well as anyone in the world.

     2.       Origami – Naigai [Abroad]
Origami are easily the most innovative and “important” hip hop act in Japan.  But this is an early track from them, showing that they can keep things fun and easy, too.

3.   Kan feat. Rumi and Kemui - Hakai to Saisei [Destruction and Rebirth]
Kan is the most interesting member of MSC (more from them in a minute). Here we get a more relaxed version of his sometimes frantic flow.  He’s also reputedly a genuine gangster, and is definitely a for real tough guy – but it’s the art that counts.

     4.       Kochitola Haguretic MCs – Suppaku Omohikuchinisu [Sour Mouth!]
Kochitola Haguretic MCs – Their name loosely translates to “We Wandering MCs,” and their origin story involves a lot of perfomances in public parks and other weird places.  They bring that raw park energy to their live shows, and to tracks like this.

5.   Rumi – Heso-Cha
You’ll notice there aren’t a lot of female MCs on this list.  In Japan, you can take the obstacles faced by female rappers and multiply them by an even more deeply entrenched cultural misogyny.  Rumi has to be as amazing as she is just to get past that.

     6.       Amida – Happyakuman [Eight Million Gods]
Amida is actually the other name used by Ebisu Beats, usually when he’s rapping rather than producing.  The guy’s a double threat (at least) – that flow speaks for itself, and this is another one of his own amazing beats.  According to him, these lyrics are based on a Buddhist chant.  The title is a reference to a tenet of Buddhist faith, but the hook’s payoff is a little sacrilegious - “Kami wo tsukutta mono kaizou shitainda [I want to remake everything God made].”

      7.      Shingo Nishinari – Kimi no Tonari [By Your Side]
Nishinari is in some ways the most political rapper in Japan, performing at rallies and worker’s events, trying to bring labor activism into the (cultural) future.  But he also has a deep grasp of R&B and having a good time – this song is all about the feel of love that makes it feel like it’s always summer.  It also contains a great, simple, but true-to-the-legacy bilingual rhyme/pun of the sort that Japanese rappers love – “Don kurai tzurai [No matter how tough] /Baby don’t cry.”

     8.    Deep Throat X – Okuzaki-X
DTX are an insane live act, and this is the track on their first record that gets closest to capturing that energy.  It’s also got a great backstory – it’s inspired by (and at the opening, samples a speech by) the fiery Japanese leftist Okuzaki Kenzo, subject of the great documentary “The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On.”  This was a man who assaulted and vandalized his way towards the truth, and DTX work hard to capture that same degree of wildness.

         9.    C.I.A. Zoo – Blunt and Fire [feat. Ace]
C.I.A. Zoo love two things – weed and science fiction (Their debut album is called The Logic Work Orange).  This doesn’t always work out (they’re a little too fond of K-PAX), but on this Blade-Runner-With-A-Bong burner, you get to experience all the paranoia of a bad trip without the hangover.  You also, of course, get Ace’s well-honed raggamufin madness.

10. Killer Bong – Five Finger Addias Superstar
Killer Bong exists on the fringe of the fringe – the underground loves him, but still considers him pretty much a weirdo.  He also has a gigantic discography, working in a ton of different configurations, including several instrumental albums that give DJ Shadow a run for his money.  This, though, is him rapping over his own production – if this grim croak can be called ‘rapping.’ (Also, the misspelling is definitely intentional – this guy is crazy like a fox when it comes to English – see particularly the brilliant track titles for Murder Scene Togashi Dub).

    11.      MSC – Shinjuku Running Dogs
Tokyo’s roughest crew give us a scary, grimy, frantic vision of their home district.  This is from their first album, Matador, which sits with some of the best hip hop of all time, from any country.

    12.     Origami – Sanzu [River Styx]
There’s a bit of doubling up on this, inevitably – the best artists in Japan are going to make more than one great song.  But no one deserves it more than Origami.  This is them at their most engrossingly deep. Here’s a partial (and probably partially inaccurate) translation of the (actually, kind of untranslatable) chorus:

Tengoku to jikoku
Mai ni narareruka hai ni narareruka
genkoku to hikoku
Uttaeru gawa utairarerugawa
Sono hasamata no Sanzu no kawa
Dare ga
Sunshine furu tairiku

Heaven and Hell
Will we enter dancing, or crawling?
Plaintiff and traitor
The accuser or the accused
The styx flows in the gap between as one body
Who rules
This Shiney, Sunshine land?

    13.     DJ Baku feat. Killer Bong – Terroriddim, Vyavah Version
Sort of another repeat, but this is Killer Bong rhyming over DJ Baku’s equally dark but more sophisticated production.  (This isn’t anything like the frantic sound Baku is best known for, but it fit the mooood).  Also note the title is a slightly more sophisticated reference than it might seem – in Japanese, “Terrorhythm” would be pronounced identically to “Terrorism.”

    14.     Doobeeis – Purple Rain
I just discovered these guys and I’m eager to find out more.  Spacey and smokey.

And we out.


Sebastien said...

Hello sir,
my name is Sébastien, I'm French and I dig all kinds of hip-hop. I do like your post on japanese h-h and your input on it, unfortunately your link to the hour long mix appears to be broken, is there any way to get back to it ? I would really appreciate it, here's my e-mail :

Keep it up,

Seb aka the Milkboy

David Z. Morris said...

I hope you're set up to receive notices on replies, because this mix is now live again! Hope you get the chance to grab it this time around.

thelyricalbeing said...

soooooo there arent any linx to download this mix :( and do i really have to buy it on amazon ?

happahaffibun! said...

had some technical difficulties with your mix.

here is a likkle japanese reggae counteraction.

happahaffibun! said...

technical problems fix... nice mix!!!

Col said...

So glad to see someone else out there touting the excellence of Origami. I'm still hoping they'll release a new album at some point. Shibitt's solo stuff is good, but it's not the same without Nanorunamonai.

burialatsea said...

Can't seem to get the link to the mix working. Downloading it doesn't work either :/

Gonna check out Origami either way though. So far the only Japanese hip-hop I've listened to is Shing02 and Rip Slyme (Shing02's album Waikyoku is great, while Rip Slyme is okay, I guess). Nujabes doesn't count here I suppose since nearly every song he does is in English.


Check out my DMC online dj routine and cast a 5 star vote for me if you like it. Thanks,

Jack Shaw said...

Can you pleaseeeee fix the link again. Don't use dropbox and you wno't have to do it again. There are sooo many services out there which don't punish you for bandwidth

Jack Shaw said...

Can you pleaseeeee fix the link again. Don't use dropbox and you wno't have to do it again. There are sooo many services out there which don't punish you for bandwidth

Jack Shaw said...

Can you pleaseeeee fix the link again. Don't use dropbox and you wno't have to do it again. There are sooo many services out there which don't punish you for bandwidth

javier roman said...

Link broken...

If you could send it that would be marvellous (or upload it again):

javiromangarcia(at)gmail . com

Spefy God said...