Review Summary: A classic J-rap album that is full of attitude and, while it may not be "Super Original", Kick the Can Crew's debut album proves to be one of their best in their catalog.
Hardly any group in the Japanese rap world had the commercial success that Kick the Can Crew had. Often considered to be the modern Japanese rap gods, Kick the Can Crew had impressive success from the get-go, with their independent singles and albums flying off the shelves. Their first major single, "Christmas Eve Rap", broke the Oricon top 10 at number 5, and stayed in the charts for an impressive total of 17 weeks. It seemed that the group were queued up and ready to take the mainstream by the storm with their debut album, which, needless to say, they did. 2002's "Vitalizer" proved to be a mainstream hit, and forever changed the Japanese rap scene for its angsty, feisty sound, with a youthful pop edge.
"Super Original", the album's first official song, is one of the album's finest moments. Its choppy beat and the group's ambitious rhyming style is noteworthy, and the song is perhaps one of the group's sheer standout moments, for good reason. "Marushe" follows a unique style, with horns opening up the song, before breaking off into a party jumping type of track, with the group energetically attacking the listener with an addictive (and admittedly impressive) lyrical flow. "Oneway" brings the album back to Earth with a more mature sound. While the song itself might be plain in terms of the album's first two, energy-filled tracks, it is admirable for its attempt to switch up and gain a more solid foundation, with a more mature sounding instrumental and more collective flow. "Kankeri 02" continues the mature transition, and its efforts end up to be much more memorable, due to its sample-filled instrumental and practically chanted raps from the bandmates. Kreva (one of the group's members, and would go on to enjoy a highly successful solo career after KtCC's split) mixed the track, and its lively, yet down-to-earth sound is very addictive, and ends up being another highlight on the classic J-rap album.
"Itsunarouba" (the attempted Japanese translation of the English phrase, 'it's not over') is one of the album's weakest moments. The song's sheer bubblegum sound, with heavy auto-tune within the chorus, the album seems to lose focus temporarily, and lunge itself at the Japanese mainstream's jugular, losing its original formula. However, the album seems to regain its ground with the next track, "C'mon Everybody (Remix)", which features fellow emcee Innosence. The track revisits the 80's rap sound, heavy with a robotic electronic sound which was quite common within the early 80's rap scene. The b-boy revival attempt is quite charming, and the song manages to have the album find its original pulse, and keep onward toward the gold. The album's title track, "Vitalizer", is another golden moment for the album, with a downtempo beat leading the droned-out emcees toward a path which would make "Vitalizer" a memorable track. The song's cunning style, which has a heavy trip-hop influenced atmosphere, is highly noteworthy, and makes the title track one of the most unique ones on the album. "Mikoshi Rockers", which features Japanese rap pioneers Rhymester, is another interesting track on the album. Its fast paced rhythm, which seems to be a mixture of dance hall, salsa and electronic hip hop, is another breath of fresh air on the album, adding further impressive diversity to its belt. The song's final track then eventually slips on, "Hands", which has a slick feel to it. Its R&B-focused style is admirable, although it fails to deliver the sheer impressiveness that the previous few tracks delivered. Although the group's adaptive rap style is still in tact, the song just feels non-motivated, with their creativity appearing to have dimmed. Not a real satisfying album closer, but it doesn't harm the album's true charm by any means.
All in all, Kick the Can Crew's official debut album, "Vitalizer", proves to have its fair share of catchy rap moments. However, since "Magic Number" is probably KtCC's finest moment, "Vitalizer" remains in its shadow. But, for what it's worth, the album is an important work in the Japanese rap world, as it ushered in a new Japanese rap style which had a sneering attitude, with a lovable pop edge to it. A Japanese rap classic which cannot be discredited. Then again, that goes for all three of their full albums.