TOTW: Nujabes_ Light on the land

For the past four years I’ve posted a Nujabes track on the week of the artists untimely death. Partly to remember his work but also because it still resonates with me to this day. Jazz Infused Hip hop wasn’t unique when he was making this music over a decade ago and its a style that has continued to be popular and yet for me his work still reigns supreme.

His particular ability to mix samples that create strong emotions in the listener has enabled the work to remain relevant and still continue to grow a fan base of both listeners and musicians alike. Many have been influenced by his work and some have tried to imitate it to varying levels of success and yet none have been able to match the original work for feeling and repeatability.

Its a mark to the mans talent that his work is so hard to replicate when its sample based. Clearly Jun Seba had a unique ear for finding and working these elements together. Although we were only blessed with a small collection of albums and EP from his shot but productive career they continue to be some of the most listed to records in my collection many years after I first heard them. I can’t recommend them highly enough.


TOTW: Nujabes_Feather

Every year on the week of his death I dedicate my Track Of The Week to Japanese Hip-Hop producer Nujabes.

A decade after His death, his production still feels fresh, blending jazz samples with hip hop groves, which a collection of collaborators to rap over. Its a blend of genre that has been prevalent throughout the history of Hip-Hop, but Nujabes still stands out as one of the true masters of the form.

Feather is the opening track to his second album “modal soul,” and follows his winning formula of musical looping sections; filtered to allow space for Cise Starr & Akin to rap over.

Its a great place to start with its catchy piano hook and thoughtful lyrics, but it should’t be the place to stop. His work (especially on his first two albums) is a pure joy and has never left me since I first heard it nearly fifteen years ago.

It is a shame that we will never hear more from Jun Seba but I will cherish the music he did release for the rest of my life. Although there is a fairly limited amount of music, the quality of the tracks throughout his career mean that I will be able to continue this section for years to come:


TOTW Playlist:

TOTW: Nujabes_Kumomi

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:


TOTW Playlist:

TOTW Nujabes _ Spiritual State

Nujabes has been a act that I continue to come back to year in, year out. Its nice that he is finally available on spotify as his work has always been hard to get outside of Japan.

The album Spiritual State came out after his tragic death, with many tracks being finished by friends and collaborators posthumously. Its title track was a collaboration with Uyama Hiroto and contains sparse elements. A piano, backed up with a shuffling clapping loop, together with a clarinet, provide the only instrumentation, giving the piece space for the cord patterns and busy melodies to be both interesting and relaxing.


TOTW Playlist:

TOTW: Nujabes_ Reflection Eternal

8 Years ago this week we lost one of my favourite artists of all time. Jun Seba died in a traffic accident in Shibuya, Tokyo on the 26th of February 2010 with a burgeoning career ahead of him. A career that has continued to grow after his passing due to the quality of his three full albums and multiple mix-tapes and rarities.

Like many fans, I originally heard his work on the anime series Samurai Champloo. It was a sound that stood out in its own right among a collection of hip hop tracks made by great artists. Nujabes production shone through and resulted in me importing his first two albums at a great expense. These two albums have stood the test of time, blending jazz and hip hop to create a nostalgic atmosphere. Their mix of instrumentals, with collaborations from underground rappers from Japan and the USA, provides music that transcends its time period.

Up until recently his work has been hard to get hold of. He released most of his music on his own label “Hydeout Productions” and his sudden death obviously caused issues with the licensing and distribution of his music, outside of the few CD’s released purely in Japan. This made fans outside of japan either acquire the work illegally or at great cost via import/buying from japan personally.

Fortunately those days seem to be disappearing as most of his catalogue has started to appear on major streaming sites over the past few months. Hopefully this accessibility will allow more people to hear and become as enamoured with his music as much as I am.

I have highlighted his work almost yearly on this blog and will continue to do so on the week of his death and for years to come. His music is still as popular to me now as it was when I first heard it. All of his work is amazing with his first two albums “Metaphorical Music” and “Modal Soul” being the highlights.

The track “Reflection Eternal” comes from the latter and exemplifies his instrumental compositions. The use of small loops from limited instrumentation creates a sound that oozes atmosphere. A laid back world that hooks many people. I hope it hooks you too as you start the bittersweet journey of hearing music that will stick with you for years, yet knowing that there will never be more. Jun Suba may have died but Nujabes lives on through his work and his loyal fanbase, which finds an endless joy to the music he created.



TOTW Playlist:

TOTW: Nujabes, Shing02_ Luv (sic.) pt3

I’ve come back from Japan fresh full of ideas and positive energy. The experience was a remarkable one and will be highly influential giving me several directions I can take my music.

Whilst in Tokyo I managed to visit Tower Records in Akihabara with the goal to pick up the work of one of my favorite HipHop Producers. In the UK Nujabes work is hard to get hold of officially, a mix of his sudden death and being a Japanese producer means that his music never got a UK release so importing the work at an incredibly inflated price is the only way to get your hands on it.

The thought was to save by doing the importing myself and I mustn’t be the only one who follows these ideas as he had a whole collection of shelves dedicated to him in tower records. Rare for an artist who has been dead for over seven years.

Nujabes Catalogue

The reason Nujabes has this ground swell of support is simply the high standard he achieved creating his sound. Mixing Jazz samples with hiphop beats is a staple of the genre with J Dilla and DJ Krush being other well known examples but Nujabes work is the most accessible allowing you to get lost in it almost instantly.

Luv (sic.) pt 3 is a collaboration with Nujabes and a Japanese rapper Shing02 which was eventually finished as 6 parts posthumously using sample ideas left on Nujabes phone. Part 3 was the first I heard as it features on the album Modal Soul and stands on its own making it a great place to start:

TOTW: Soil & “Pimp” Sessions_ Spartacus Love Theme

I watched Soil & “Pimp” Sessions last week at Manchester venue Band on the Wall. Their energetic performances and exiting take on Jazz has always made me a big fan and I wasn’t disappointed.

The night was wrapped up with their cover of the Love theme from Spartacus which was originally popularised for jazz on Yusef Lateefs album Eastern Sounds and used as a sample on the Nujabes song The Final View found on his album Metaphorical Music.

There’s something fundamentally fantastic about the melody of this piece, its simple yet manages to portray so much, being both joyous and mournful at the same time. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions have their own take on it diverging from the original source material in the same creative way that they became famous for when they covered wheel within a wheel years ago.

TOTW: Nujabes_Modal Soul

It’s been four years since Jun Seba aka Nujabes died in a car accident and he is still sorely missed. His albums Modal Soul and Metaphorical Music still feel fresh and exiting to this day and I cherish and listen to them regularly. To decide on a track was hard but as an album Modal Soul is my favourite so I thought I would buck the trend and put a stream of the whole thing up below. I hope you enjoy and love this unique mix of jazz and hiphop as much as I have over the years:



TOTW: Nujabes ft Cise Starr_Highs 2 Lows

As summer eases its way through what’s been a fairly wet few months, hip hop has been more and more prevalent in my playlists, There’s something about the sun beating down on the bonnet of your car, feeling the wind rush through its open windows as you drive, that blends so well with an accompaniment of hip hop.

Every year one artist has stayed on rotation in my car above others, Nujabes was a fresh and fantastic talent from Japan, Blending traditional hip hop drum lines with a large collection of Jazz samples to create a fantastic bed of music for well selected collaborators to rap over.

Unfortunately in February of 2010 He died in a car crash, leaving just a small collection of full albums and compilations to his name. All of which have a close connection to me and a strong place in my collection.

As an introduction I thought I would start with one of my favourite tracks from him featuring lyrics for Cise Starr, If you like this please spend some time trawling the net for his other works, You wont be disappointed: