Review Summary: Mellow, calm and collected, Soul Scream's debut album remains to be one of the most impressive and historical debuts in Japanese hip-hop history.
By the late 1980's and early 1990's, hip-hop was starting to flood the Japanese underground scene. Commonly, the sound of the scene varied from party-friendly rap to grittier, more hardcore-styled rap. However, one group in particular failed to enter either of those categories. That group would be Soul Scream. Formed in 1994, the group made their debut in July of 1996 with their "The Deep" album. With its calm and mellow nature, Soul Scream (along with Rhymester) helped usher in a new face to Japanese hip-hop that was calm and collected in nature, which would continue to be echoed throughout the underground scene up through the new millennium.
The opening track, "Tamashii no Sakebi", has a flickering rhythm to it, with emcees Hab I Scream and E.G.G.Man buzzing alongside the booming track. The track is particularly impressive, due to its drained samples and mesmerizing flows of the aforementioned emcees. "0 Bansen" is one of the longest tracks on the album, clocking in at 6-and-a-half minutes. However, its hypnotizing downtempo tone and laid-back rhymes from the Soul Scream boys makes the track seem much shorter than it really is. That feat makes the track even more remarkable, as a lot of emcees of the time seem to have a habit of droning onward, with no real intention of hooking the listener in. "0 Bansen" does a great job of reeling the listener into a welcoming audial downtempo paradise. "Mugen no Jigen" is another relaxed track, and has a penetrating soothing aura to it, with the emcees laying down smooth molasses-like bars. The chorus is also particularly memorable, due to its levitating melodious force. "Yami no Gare" is a slightly more active track, and has a nice chilled vibe to it, with a beautiful melodious sample working wonders as the bridge. The sheer laid-back bounce of the track can be compared to the "ATLiens" album by OutKast. "Brand New" starts off with a rap acapella, with "brand new" chanted constantly in the background. It then breaks off into a xylophone sample, and then breaks off into a lively track, being an interesting slight change in the more relaxed style of the album. However, this newly found activity in the album gives the album a slight bounce appeal, and an even bigger canvas to showcase its brilliant formula on.
In short, "The Deep" by Soul Scream ends up being one of the most calm and laid-back records that not only Japan has to offer, but possibly the rap scene in general has to offer. Relying entirely on melody, cleverly executed samples and whimsical verses, Soul Scream's debut ends up being one of the most beautiful, and, ultimately, perfect displays of mid-90's Japanese hip-hop. It's no wonder the album is considered to be a true landmark in the Japanese hip-hop scene.