If you haven’t heard of Jun Seba then you’re too late. News of Nujabes’ untimely death in early of 2010 was a devastating blow to the underground hip-hop community as his stapled genre of smooth jazz influenced beats have become both critically praised and massively sought out. It’s hard, to this day, to think of any album that can compete with ‘Metaphorical Music’ and his follow up ‘Modal Soul’. The John Coltrane-esque flow, the wonderfully crafted lyrics, and stellar guest stars not only helped single handedly define an entire sub-genre of hip-hop, but started a movement of Japanese rappers that is still felt to this day. With such critical acclaim, it is both expected and nearly equally dreaded that the personal friends close to Jun and those inspired by him would create a tribute album to his legacy: expected because of his everlasting impact felt on the genre and dreaded because of the impossible task of creating a tribute worthy of Nujabes. With that said, it can be really easy to hate on this tribute, as it is not a new undertaking of any sort but a reflection to the memory of Jun. However, with surprising astonishment on my part, the tribute album not only encapsulates the sound and flow of Nujabes adequately, but it nigh worthy to be added into the collection of masterpieces that he released; a true accomplishment on the parts of the rappers, producers, and emcees on this record.
It’s bitter sweet really. While the album itself is a conglomeration of smooth jazz, hip-hop and jazz influenced beats, it still can’t be helped the feeling of nostalgia and the true realization that Jun Seba is really gone and that his genius will never grace the tracks of others again. Tracks on this album range from original material to redone tracks like the sax version of ‘Music is Ours’ and a remixed track of ‘Modal Soul’. It stands out that when I say that these tracks are ‘remixed’, I don’t mean blandly redone by some half-talented DJ, incessantly scribbling away at a vinyl, no. These tracks have been redone in a style worthy of Nujabes as they are done in a style of smooth jazz that is both a pleasure to listen to and a tear jerker when compared to the works of him. The redone version of ‘Refection Eternal’ is a standout track throughout the entire album. Fans of Jun Seba will easily recognize the opening piano riff from his sophomore album and the subtle changes that have been redone do not take away from the overall track, they reinforce. Added in is a live drum kit and redone vocals by multiple Japanese singers that complement the track superbly. This causes the track to sound more alive and vibrant then its original counterpart and while it may seem unfair to call it a more tasteful track than the original, it can’t be said that it is up to par with every other song Nujabes has made. This album should be seen not as a half finished, post-mortem release, nearly finished by the time of death like Dilla, but for what it is, a tribute album. An album that salutes the man who revolutionized the boundaries of smooth jazz and hip-hop, marrying the two together to create some of the most beautiful beats ever put together in an album. Jun Seba might be gone but his memory and genius can still be tangibly felt, whether when listening to his previous material or whether you happen to find yourself going through this album, listening to the memory that is Nujabes.