Hip Hop and you don't stop
Some of you might have read a blog entry earlier today (now erased) concerning the next tour being on life support etc.Well forget you ever read that b/c the 2nd tour is definitely still on! (and Mass Dre are still on board!) Though I would still like people to help me with designing flyers & posters. Any volunteers? Free tix/T-shirts/CDs can be made available to ones I actually use. Maybe I should make a little contest out of it.
Since I haven't been blogging much lately and took down the most recent post, I feel compelled to write about something. Hmm... Well a friend recently emailed me and was surprised I included a hip hop related band with the upcoming tour. He asked me what was going through my mind when I invited uhnellys.
This is a very interesting question. For one I'm assuming he asked b/c he was concerned that hip hop and rock might not mix and it may alienate some of the people who come to the shows. ( ie "Hip Hop? WTF?!") Or... it's a subtle jab at my musical tastes in that he assumed I only listen to pop/rock and that I had no interest in other genres such as hip hop. Well first of all I have appreciation for good music irrespective of "genre" or "geography" ( I don't listen to Japanese music exclusively goddamnit.) In fact I went through an extended indie/underground hip hop phase quite a few years ago where all I listened to was J-Zone, Binary Star, Slug/Dynospectrum, Sage Francis/Non-Prophets, Cunninlynguists etc and some more mainstream stuff back in the day like ATCQ, Common (Sense), KMD, the Roots, L.O.N.S, Pharcyde, Hiero (Souls, Del, Pep Love..) etc. I used to have an extensive hip hop vinyl collection before I sold/gave it away. Oh well. I'm still a hip hop head to some degree (on the DL).
But to answer Necat's question more throroughly, I don't really consider uhnellys a hip hop band. I think it's more accurate to describe their sound as jazz influenced noise/funk wth an emcee/lyricist (as opposed to vocalist). But that's too cumbersome and "live hip hop band" isn't completely off the mark either. But in Japan, uhnellys definitely fits in with the indie/underground rock crowd way more than they do the hip hop circle. uhnellys may have done the odd show with primarily hip hop/R&B artists but 99% of the shows they do are with indie/punk bands like tacobonds, the mornings, JUGONZ, VOLA & the Oriental Machine etc If hip hop fans came to watch uhnellys and saw the following:
They'd probably freak out and go, "Whut! This ain't hip hop y'all!!" But I agree they clearly have aspects and ties to them that are unequivocally hip hop. Kim is an emcee who rhymes as opposed to sings and they essentially play live breakbeats. They've collaborated with Vancouver emcee SHAD. But to recapitulate, uhnellys feel more at home playing in front of "rock" crowds than they do at hip hop shows. And I can safely say that uhnellys do not play funk metal (eg Limp Bizkit, Urban Dance Squad, 24/7 Spyz). I have appreciation for music of all sorts but funk metal is a bastardization up with which I will not put. hahaha.
Also, I just want to mention to readers: don't be fooled by Youtube clips. Video footage on Youtube rarely manages to capture the intensity and power of a live-performance. Especially in Japan where it is illegal for audience members to film or take photos at concerts.
uhnellys are absolutley amazing live performers. Even if you hate hip hop with a passion I would be surprised at anyone who fails to recognize their talent as musicians and stage artists. Many people who came to watch the 1st tour were absolutely blown away by mothercoat. Even though they previewed live footage of mothercoat on Youtube they completely underestimated how good they would be at an actual show. I would say that most Japanese bands sound and come across much more intense, soulful and energetic when seen live than they do on video and especially vs their CDs. Many bands in Japan sound mediocre on CD but are absolutely mindblowing in concert. (I won't mention examples so as not to hurt their CD sales. hahaha)
I digressed quite a bit, but getting back to the original question of my mindset in including a hiphop-related band: Even though I consider uhnellys to be closer to a regular rock/jazz band than hip hop artists, by no means would I ever exclude hip hop from a Next Music from TOKYO roster. In fact I would seriously consider bringing Rumi & Skyfish to Canada. They are definitely part of the Japanese hip hop scene but also feel comfortable playing at a show with primarily rock bands. Here they are at Tokyo Boredom:
This is a punk rock show but they had the whole room going wild. It's also a reflection of how open-minded the indie-underground scene is in Japan. Good music is good music irrespective of genre and the Japanese are willing to embrace any style... as long as it isn't funk metal. haaha j/k (Maximum the Hormone = funk metal gods in Japan).
Here's another clip showcasing Rumi's mic control skills. The girl is a true battle-tested cypher queen.
環ROY (Tamaki ROY) is another hip hop emcee that gets love from the indie-rock crowd in Japan.
2 other faves group_inou and illreme likewise.
Hip Hop and rock can and do mix!! It does in Japan and I have faith that the type of people who come to watch NMFT are open-minded enough to appreciate music for what it is and not its classification.
And R.I.P Jun Seba...