Review Summary: A fantastic indies debut from one of Japan's true neo-rap visionaries.
Japanese hip hop has been around for nearly three decades. Pioneers in the scene such as Seiko Ito, Tinnie Punx and Hiroshi Fujiwara helped provide the initial layout and foundation for the scene in the early-mid 80's, but the genre of Japanese hip hop would not prove to be marketable until the mid 90's, when groups like Scha Dara Parr, East End x Yuri and Tha Blue Herb garnered mainstream attention, thus providing the economic stability that Japanese hip hop needed to fully penetrate the Japanese mainstream. In its multi-decade long run, Japanese hip hop managed to cover most terrain. However, one artist managed to concoct a form of rap that has not really been orchestrated in Japan yet: mellow, downtempo-esqued rap with numerous other styles experimented. That rapper is 79. 79 (pronounced 'nakku') originally was a member of the electrorap group, Zamagi, whom, one can assume, split sometime a decade ago. Breaking out of the rubble of relative decade-long obscurity, 79 approaches unexplored territory, and ends up being one of the most interesting rappers to date Japan has to offer, with "Enjoy Your Trip" being the main reason.
The album starts off with the mellow, levitating track, "Enjoy Your Trip", which ends up being one of the album's greatest tracks. The song has an astonishing aura to it, with the main sound being soft spoken, and the chorus working as a polar opposite, with loud, galactic clashes, echoing a bit to 1980's new wave. A splendid song, and a magnificent way to pull the listener in. "Numbers" has a loud, proud feel to it, with various kicks and wails flying all over the place. 79 does his role as a mellow emcee, thus creating a unique sound at the end of the day. The song's instrumental can be compared to the unorthodox ways of underground legend emcee/producer, MF Doom, due to its highly sampled, cut up sound, delicately sewed into a wonderful piece of underground history. "Day Game" has a sunny sound to it, and emulates the sound of relaxing inside a cool pool during a warm, muggy day. A more straightforward song, and one of the most straightforward ones on the eclectic, mellow album. "Summer Lemon Cream" is another fantastic piece which follows a tone of apathy, and has a nice floating feel to it. Guest rapper, Shunta, does a fantastic job of riding on top of the floating balloon of a song. One of the best songs, along with the self-titled track. "Puzzle Funks" is probably the most active song on the album, following a walking bass line, and having 79 orchestrating an impressive vocal flow that he successfully marked as his own. "Adogebaha Kyou", on the flip side, is probably the album's less active and probably the album's bleakest moment. The rather minimal-based instrumental consists of a stomping kick and echoed snaps, with a piercing synthesized sound effect surfacing like clockwork. An interesting track, and probably the grimmest on the album as well.
"Weekend Kitamakura" follows the same avant-garde direction of "Adogebaha Kyou", only with a much more lively tone to it. A heavily filtered bass line, haunting guitar plucks, covered on top of a typical rap drum beat, turns out to be some of 79's most comfortable surroundings, as his signature style works wonders with the screwy instrumental. An addictive track, despite its somewhat dark undertones. "Kuusou wa Gangstaz" follows the same floating style as "Summer Lemon Cream", thus putting it on "SLC"'s high level. The production of the track is once again reminiscent to MF Doom's, due to its highly sampled sound, and its ending ability to sound like something wonderful and new. "Fruits Blend" is a poppy ditty, with a whispered 79 rapping on top of a sound heavy in keyboards. While ballad-like tracks may not be ideal in any solid rap album, the way "Fruits Blend" is created makes it so that there is no altercation. The track just continues the remarkable flow of the album. "Freak Out" has faded keys and an overall downtempo tone to it. The haunting way in which the keys are manipulated makes the track a brilliant one, and one that pushes the impressive aura of the album even higher. "Cool Out" is another straightforward track, and has a falling sound to it, with various samples covering every corner of the song. Unique, and an interesting mainstream contortion. "Keep Going" echoes the slightly unsettling tone of "Freak Out", only with a much more stripped down sound, with the main sound focused on the faded keys. Relaxing, despite its slight unsettling nature. The album's final song, "Clearance", has a hypnotizing melody to it, and, despite it just being an instrumental, it does a whimsical job of summing up the album's mellow, and sometimes haunting, nature.
An album totally confident in its diversity, "Enjoy Your Trip" proves track-after-track that it is one of the most enjoyable rap albums to come out of Japan in years. An easy shoe-in for a Sputnik "Best of 2013" list, this album has a comfortable tone to it, making its diverse changes welcoming. Out of all the rappers in the Japanese indies scene, 79 is one to definitely keep your eye on.