My, oh my, look at where hip-hop has taken itself now. Just several decades after becoming the New York staple of music, hip-hop has expanded and transcended cultural boundaries – landing itself this time into the arms of Japan’s own DJ Krush.
Almost admittedly (and somewhat apologetically), DJ Krush does not pretend to be the next Primo or 9th Wonder or even Clue. His DJing and production style is more that of a major movie production – the titles of the tracks match the mood and tone through and through with an obsessive compulsive-like disorder of order. However, while “Jaku” may soothe the smooth urges of the artsy or laid-back hip-hop fan, what DJ Krush provides is more electronica-based than hip-hop.
The crazily peaceful and calm “Still Island,” backed by melodic flutes, or the bird-like sounds of “Road to Nowhere” paint a detailed picture that will cause listeners to feel like a gentle beach surrounds them with a jungle lingering somewhere off in the background. Krush’s choice to include many elements in his productions keep each tune feeling alive and well, but unfortunately, hip-hop’s short attention span may not permit such lengthy efforts from “Jaku.”
The more spaced-out vibes of “Nosferatu,” where Mr. Lif pops his head in for a pair of verses reinforces the hip-hop angle of “Jaku,” but does so over a toned down Krush that overrides the words of Lif and forces him out of the spotlight. Krush amply does save “Kill Switch” with a nightmarish Aesop Rock contribution that gives hip-hop fans just a small dose of what they might expect from the Japan-to-America connection.
Elsewhere, the electronica feel to “Jaku” remains steadfast and omnipresent with nary a trace of hip-hop, minus “Decks-atron,” which incorporates an element of scratching into the mix, and the more boom-bapped stylings of “Song 2” or “Distant Voices.” But the overpowering traditional chanting of “Slit of Cloud” or the piano-driven “Stormy Cloud” will just not seek out and rain on many hip-hop fans willing to try out something new.
In the day and age of thumping bass, witty one-liners, and sped-up samples, DJ Krush’s more experimental “Jaku” generates a trendy and oft-overlooked segment of the hip-hop population – one filled with intelligence and the need for musical stimulation created by a master behind the boards with enough qualifications to create good, quality music. Unfortunately, “Jaku” generates too much of a good thing, as it will, undoubtedly, go over the heads of hip-hop fans just grasping the concept of 9th Wonder productions or songs that can be quality without selling out to the mainstream.
My, oh my, look where hip-hop has gone. But look quick, because while hip-hop may have landed in Japan, Japan does not look to be landing in a New York boom box anytime in the near future.