Each year, on the week of his death, I commemorate hip hop producer Nujabes because he still holds a strong place in my heart and record collection.
When I first heard his music on the show Samurai Champloo, I loved his Jazzy style of hip-hop and wanted to know more. So, I scoured the internet for the limited and poor quality rips of his music at the time. Finally I came across his first album “metaphorical music” in full.
Even in the poor quality MP3 state I managed to fall in love with it to the extent that I had to own the record. At this point, his second album “modal soul” had come out, so I imported them at an astronomically high price (at the time each record cost me nearly 2 days wages of my poor student job).
With a large cost, and nearly a month’s worth of waiting for shipping, my anticipation of the records had peaked dangerously high. Although I’d heard a poor quality version of “metaphorical music”, “modal soul” was completely new to me, and I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the first record, or the price I’d paid to import it.
Thankfully I wasn’t dissapointed, Both records were above and beyond my expectations. They were played in rotation throughout my entire summer and became for months the soundtrack to my life. I couldn’t believe music this good was so unknown. Part of me cherished the fact that I had something so special all to myself. I was listening to music that nobody else was. The other part of me wanted to change that. I became a spokesman for the records, playing them to anyone who would listen.
Over time it became clear that I wasn’t the only one. At the beginning, the internet was baron of Nujabes info from non Japanese sites. But this started to change as more people heard his music. A fanbase grew in a natural way, and the more it grew, the more proud I was of this fantastic artist.
It hit me hard in 2010 to hear of his sudden death. There was still so much potential that had been snuffed out before it had time to develop. I felt like the world was robbed, not only of new and beautiful music, but also the chance for that music to influence more musicians and artists to continue his brilliant legacy.
Fans of his music have continued to carry the banner for Nujabes. There’s something about their fanaticism that makes it so special. He has always felt like a bit of an outcast. In the early days we used to argue with HipHop fans who wouldn’t give him the time of day because he was Japanese and not American. His particular style of HipHop and Jazz has fallen in and out of fashion, but one thing that has always stood the test of time is truly great music.
And that seems to be the case with Nujabes. Now that his catalog is available on streaming and has been added to playlists, more and more people are becoming aware of an artist who managed to blend his own style out of jazz samples to create music that is timeless. Although dead, he lives on through the many old and new fans that continue to listen to his music over a decade later.
With little to no promotion his fanbase continues to grow because of his raw brilliant talent. The music speaks for itself, and it’s time to let it do the talking. Rest In Peace Jun Seba, you’re sorely missed: