prj4.indd 2-3 04/04/2014 3:42:35 PM
04/04/2014 3:42:35 PM
Who is Nujabes?
Who is Jun Seba?
Tribute to Jun Seba/Nujabes
Jun Seba (February 7, 1974-February 26, 2010)
was a Japanese hip-hop music producer who
recorded under the name Nujabes (new-jah-behz;
which is simply his real name spelled backwards).
His music is known for a strong cool jazz influence,
frequently using samples from artists like Miles
Davis and Yusef Lateef.
He was also an owner of “tribe”, a record store in
Shibuya, Tokyo, and led indie record label HydeOut Productions. He released two albums in Japan,
Metaphorical Music in 2003 and Modal Soul in
2005. He was also a member of the production
In addition to Japanese artists like Shing02 and duo Urbanforest, an experimental collaboration
MINMI, he has collaborated with underground with Nao Tokui (appearing on the Lady Brown
American hip-hop acts CYNE, Apani B-Fly, Five 12”).
Deez, Substantial, Fat Jon and British rapper
Funky DL.He has also contributed music to the
soundtrack of Samurai Champloo, an anime which
blends a setting in feudal Japan with modern
anachronisms, especially hip-hop music.
1974 - 2010
On March 17, 2010, it was announced on the
Hyde-Out Productions website that Jun passed
away on February 26, 2010 at the age of 36
after being involved in a serious car accident
on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway. He was
promptly transported to the hospital, where
attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. An
English announcement was made on March 18 by
friend and collaborator Shing02 on the Empire22
04/04/2014 3:42:35 PM
The first song, ‘Blessing It’, is a perfect introduction to the wonderful world of Nujabes. As soon
as the first notes reach the eardrums, the result is
inevitable. Heads will immediately begin nodding to the smooth piano-driven beats, fused
subtly with some soulful sax, and the listener is
strapped comfortably in to an intense, yet relaxing ride. On this track, guest vocals appear from
Substantial and Pasé Rock (Five Deez), and much
like the rest of the guests on the album, they
succeed brilliantly at complementing Nujabes’
unique sound with their defiant lyrics and unassuming vocals.
Me t a p h o r i c a l
The record continues with the first instrumental
song on the album, ‘Horn in the Middle’. There are
some faint voices in the background of this track,
but it’s mainly Nujabes expertly mixing samples
from breezy, melodic piano tones, punchy bass,
and lively horns. The drum beats are wonderful throughout, and the subtle twists and turns
make for this to be one of the better songs on
“Is the glass half full or half empty?”
“It’s based on your perspective quite simply”
“We’re the same and we’re not know what I’m saying listen”
“I aint better than you I just think different”
Picking up where ‘Blessing It’ left off, this vocal
driven track, ‘Lady Brown’, starring Cisse Starr,
plays against some light, high pitched acoustic
guitar (I’m not great with specialized instruments), lyrics focused somewhat cornily on a girl
Cisse is obsessed with. A decent track, sure to attract newcomers to the artist. Next up is another
pure Nujabes track, ‘Kumomi’. Unfortunately, this
track can get a little too repetitive with repeated
plays, but nonetheless, some excellently simple
piano interplay, well placed samples, and a flowing bassline keep it in check. The song is never
really boring, but it does feel slightly dragged
out, despite it’s intended calming effect.
In an kind of 1,2 formation, another vocal track
follows, and it is personally one of my favorite
tracks on the album. ‘Highs 2 Lows’ features some
effortlessly brilliant rapping from Cisse Starr, lyrics like white water rapids, cutting you to pieces,
while still flowing naturally with a sort of beautiful aggression. This excellence plays perfectly in
time with Nujabes’ refreshing beats and gentle
piano tones, although these can get repetitive as
they rarely differ from their original formula.
The next two songs are created by Nujabes
alone, the first being ‘Beat Laments the World’,
(although this does contain a sample from
Substantial in ‘Blessing It’) and this is another
good example of Nujabes’ incredible talent.
Samples repeatedly play, and occasionally the
Japanese producer will twist the formula of the
song, adding a few pianos into the mix. Despite
being slightly repetitive, the song keeps its credit
through its wonderfully relaxing beats. The next
song, ‘Letter From Yokosuka’, is one of my favorite
instrumentals. Very chill and laid-back, the song
opens with some kind of horn, played in a way
that would sooth any soul. Pianos once more
come in, complementing the horn perfectly and
the song plays it’s course, sometimes adding
new instruments and samples, acting like waves
caressing a shore.
04/04/2014 3:42:35 PM
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Depar t u r e
Nujabes / Fat Jon
“Some Days, Some Nights”
“Some Live, Some Die”
“In The Way Of The Samurai”
“Some Fight, Some Bleed”
“Sun Up To Sun Down”
“The Sons Of A Battlecry “
04/04/2014 3:42:36 PM
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Force of Nature
04/04/2014 3:42:36 PM
As living things, we Homo sapiens need a steady
supply of certain ingredients to survive. From water to shelter, each is significant and helps define
the way we live our lives. In music, the formula
is undeniably similar. As a plant needs nutrients
and light, a song requires both rhythm and pitch.
Unfortunately, even with the proper ingredients
and measurements the results are not always
as expected. Stagnancy spreads throughout
genres due to repetition, as well as a lack of skill
or emotion. Luckily Nujabes (alias of Japanese DJ
and hip-hop producer Seba Jun) avoids this and
Modal Soul will undoubtedly be a tasty addition
to the hip-hop cookbook.
Within Seba’s recipe exists all of the essential
factors needed to be granted printing space in
the book. He not only equips himself with jazzy
instrumentals, but also with intelligent lyricists
who are capable of gliding atop of them. Nujabes’ reluctance to produce a track which isn’t
seemingly passionate or authentic, gives Modal
Soul a flavor never encountered before.
“So I’m Driftin Away Like A Feather In Air”
“Lettin My Words Take Me Away From The Hurt And
“So I’m Keepin It Vertical Forever Elevator”
“Ridin The Escalator To The Somethin That Is Greater”
“So I’m Driftin Away Like A Feather In Air”
“Lettin My Soul Take Me Away From The Hurt And Despair”
“So I’m Keepin It Vertical Forever Elevator
Ridin The Escalator To The Somethin That Is Greater”
The taste is bold, distinguishable, and unlike
many other flavors, all of the elements are seamlessly blended. He meshes hip-hop rhythms with
jazz samples from the likes of Miles Davis and
Yusef Lateef. Background pianos and parts of
saxophone solos are all incorporated. Although
the sampled jazz artists are high profiled, the
featured underground hip-hop acts are also an
important spice to the dish.
For Modal Soul, Nujabes has recruited seven
different emcees, rather than having one sole
lyricist. Not only does each artist sound different,
but their flow and lyrical topics are varied as well.
The lyrics range from merely okay to excellent,
yet always appropriate for the occupied instrumentals.
I’m just a vagabond with flowers for Algernon
The average Joe who knows what the f*ck is
It’s the hope of my thoughts that I travel upon
Fly like an arrow of god until I’m gone
Taken from the track “Feather”, these lyrics
demonstrate the eloquent usage of imagery and
other literary devices throughout the recipe.
Because of the diverse artists featured on Modal
Soul, no track sounds quite like the last.
Overall, the recipe presented is more than adequate. Seba’s ability to portray emotion is awe-inspiring and the majority of the instrumentals on
here could in fact be enjoyed without the assistance of vocals. I believe it’s a rare occurrence
that someone as talented as Nujabes comes
around, and his impact has already been felt.
Modal Soul is monumental, and easily serves as a
tasteful addition to the hip-hop cookbook.
Recommended Tracks: “Feather”, “Luv (Sic) Pt. 3”,
“Sea of Cloud”, “The Sign”
04/04/2014 3:42:36 PM
It didn’t take long after Jun Seba’s sudden death early
last year for the remaining affiliates of Hydeout Productions to announce that there was more Nujabes material
in the vaults ready to be released. Great news, we all
thought; but then we were made to wait almost two
years for it....
The problem with the waiting is that it made you wonder why you were waiting, and soon as you did, all sorts
of concerns came to mind. What if this was incomplete
material? What if it simply wasn’t very good? What if
they were waiting for a host of guest rappers to turn up
and rap over the tracks left behind? What if it was going
to end up - gulp - a collaboration album packed with
other people ‘paying tribute’ to Nujabes by pissing all
over his legacy? Unfounded concerns, sure, but hip-hop
lovers have been around long enough to know that the
genre’s moneymakers are very good, and very shameless, at milking the legacies of those who died young.
Remember some classless fucknut releasing a 2Pac
album called Ready 2 Die? Remember throwing up in
your mouth a little bit when you first heard about it? A
lot of us do.
Happily, Spiritual State allays all fears almost instantly.
The guests are, Haruka Nakamura aside, all people that
have worked with Nujabes before - Pase Rock, Substantial, and Uyama Hiroto all appeared on both Modal Soul
and Metaphorical Music, and the first two also had their
own albums produced by Nujabes - and the sound is
still exactly what it always has been, blissed-out hip-hop
with strong jazz influences and the occasional touch of
04/04/2014 3:42:36 PM
Today, I have very somber news for the international hip hop community, especially fans of the
independent hip hop scene, and those who have
followed my career.
It has been announced that Jun Seba, aka Nujabes, Japanese hip hop producer extraordinaire,
passed away late February. Official statement
from the label (in Japanese) here:
We deeply regret the loss of a unique talent and
a close friend. Through his soulful music, Nujabes
has touched so many people around the world,
even beyond his dreams. He was a mysterious
character to most as he avoided the public limelight, rarely conducted interviews, so only a few
got to know the man behind the signature production. Yet it continued to amaze me how young
listeners of all backgrounds learned of his enigmatic name, and expressed support for his music.
As I write now from Japan, I had been leaving
him messages the past couple of weeks, trying to
get in the studio together, so the news could not
have come any more unexpected. Even last week,
I passed by his house and called him thinking he
was still home.
I met Nujabes around 2000 and as an upcoming MC, I was fortunate to work on tracks such
as Battlecry, F.I.L.O, Luv(sic) parts 1, 2 and 3. We
had been working on the next trilogy of Luv(sic)
over the past year (which we’re determined to
see through). The last time we talked in January,
Nujabes emailed me to wish Jeff Resurreccion, a
19-year old beatboxer who had just passed way
from cancer, his heartfelt condolences.
“It’s funny how the music put times in perspective”
“Add a soundtrack to your life and perfect it”
“Whenever you are feeling blue keep walking and we
can get far”
“Wherever you are”
While we continue to respect the privacy of his
family, we will work to preserve his legacy, and
pay tribute to the body of work, some unreleased,
that he has left for us to enjoy. Jun Seba will be
dearly missed by his family, friends, colleagues,
and fans worldwide.
04/04/2014 3:42:37 PM