For the last couple of weeks, our friend John has been tearing up the Saturday Timewasters, posting tons of music from his favorite bands and artists. I thought that I could step in this week and talk about my absolute favorite musical act from Japan, a DJ by the name of Nujabes.
Nujabes was a hip-hop producer who was known for the chill, mellow music he made. Most people would recognize Nujabes from his work on the soundtrack to the anime series “Samurai Champloo,” including the theme for the show.
Nujabes was a bit of a recluse; a shy, quiet kind of guy. Lucky for us, his chatty friends did a lot of the talking for him.
Nujabes collaborated with rappers from all over the world, producing incredible beats for MCs from Japan, England, and the US.
When most people think of rap, they think of guys like Lil Wayne or Jay-Z who rap about themselves, how great they are, and how much money they have. Fortunately, the rappers Nujabes worked with tended to be more thoughtful, playful, and witty.
Nujabes even produced an entire album for an American rapper named Pase Rock – 2003′s “Bullshit As Usual.”
This track is a great example of why I love Nujabes so much. A typical hip-hop producer piles on booming bass and snares, building incredibly heavy, loud songs. Nujabes manages to make irresistible beats with lilting flutes and strings.
While Nujabes produced tons of music for rappers, what stands out most is his instrumental work. His instrumentals are soothing, the kind of music I listen to when I want to unwind or calm down.
Even though Nujabes was Japanese, his music was thoroughly influenced by music from all over the world. He sampled indiscriminately from genre to genre, lifting loops from jazz, soul, bossa nova, and samba albums.
He wasn’t limited to smooth, mellow beats, either. He was pretty flexible as a producer, and could dip into more fast-paced, drum-and-bass style music too.
And like any music, you’ll find lots of remixes, refixes, and reimaginings of songs to Nujabes beats. One of the great things about the internet is its ability to facilitate these kinds of remixes and spread them as far and quickly as possible.
And of course, there’s this video, which is just people running in slow motion, making goofy faces set to Nujabes music. Pretty much a must-see.
Sadly, Nujabes died suddenly in a car accident a few years back. Usually when you hear about a musician’s death, it’s sad, but it doesn’t affect you a whole lot; you don’t actually know that person. But Nujabes’ death was a real shock to me.
Since his death, there have been tons of tributes to Nujabes. The most powerful tribute was a show that all of Nujabes’ collaborators put on called “Eternal Soul.” You can check out a video of the show, which is a bit of a tear-jerker, here.
There hasn’t been a month in the last five or six years where I haven’t listened to Nujabes. His music has had an incredible effect on me, and I’m sad to think that there will never be another new Nujabes release.
Rest in peace.
Saturday Timewaster is a weekly post that features Japanese videos, music, images, or games that will certainly waste your time (some weeks more than others). We hope you enjoy!