I’ve been trying to find decent Japanese hip hop for a long-ass time now, but it’s no easy task despite the genre sorta sitting out in the open. The mainstream music establishment doesn’t embrace hip hop as much as they try to appropriate, giving artists songs with some light rhyming or maybe throw a turntable behind the group. Funky Monkey Babys pass over here, which should sum the situation up. Walk around the Amerikamura district of Osaka, though, and hip hop surrounds you – record shops blast out songs from Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em to Ghostface, clothes stores sell all sorts of “rap wear” and posters for upcoming hip hop events pop up everywhere. Yet those are the only clues I’ve seen. It’s there…but still hard to find.
THE BLACK JACKET (a.k.a A SPACENOID GALAXXXYZ, don’t know what’s up with that) are the first rap outfit to find it’s way onto this blog. Before going any further I must confess, knowing a very limited amount of Japanese forces me to ignore one of the most essentials of the genre, the rhymes themselves. I’ll only be discussing the production and flow, as the rappers themselves could be talking about yakiniku for all I know. THE BLACK JACKET’s beat thump like blown speakers, most of the songs available at their MySpace slightly screwed up. “Manchies Anthem” flirts with the type of minimalism often employed by The Cool Kids, before the group cue some Pink Floyd samples up at the chorus. Instead of falling into a nice-sounding holding pattern, THE BLACK JACKET take the track into weirder territory with each verse, messing with vocals or speeding up the tempo seemingly at random. “道産子とsoulとjazz” sees the duo mellow out a bit, a jazzy piano taking center stage as the rapping slithers around the loungey noises. The only misfire from the group’s limited song selection is “Bullet bullet bullet,” which tries way too hard to be “gangster” (the title gives it away, and the weak gun noises are as street as a backwards ball cap) and boasts a stupid butt-rock guitar sample. That track ignored, THE BLACK JACKET offer up hard-hitting hip hop, and hopefully a gateway into even more quality Japanese rap.