Photo by The Jazz Hop Cafe (YouTube)
Every once in a while, a speck of gold gets discovered in the conclave of dirt and rock. The speck is carried away in the market, to be traded, sold, kept, dealt, sold again, and soars throughout the ages, rarely finding time to settle down and whither into invaluable pebbles. The thing about gold is that it never loses its preciousness, regardless of the time period it finds itself in. Its value will always reign over its sedimentary brothers in the span of time, transcending its need to reestablish its significance.
When a genre such as Hip-Hop crosses international thresholds, the possibilities are bountiful. This was the case for Japan in the early 2000’s. A small soon-to-be beat martyr by the name of Seba Jun, or his stage name, Nujabes, first imposed himself as a curious musician, traveling across the globe for musical influences and running a record store called Tribe, and a label entitled Hyde-Out Productions, both held in Minato, Tokyo. Locally, Jun was a renowned disc jockey and intransigent curator of obscure and honorable Jazz and Hip-Hop records. His sound is mainly composed of luscious and airy beats sampled by typically Bebop Jazz samples, leveled by familiar old-school Hip-Hip snares and drums.
He personally released two major albums that continue to collect international attention to this day. Metaphorical Music in 2003 and Modal Soul in 2005. As both of those albums garnered nods from underground Hip-Hop heads and loyal fans, what really propelled his sound into infamy was his attributed work in the anime series, Samurai Champloo. The show itself has been accumulating followers for its surreal and stylistic convergence between feudal era Japan and modern-day urban graffiti and music culture.
The music is one of the largest components of the show’s strength. It had Jun’s cool aesthetic of nubiferous production and laid-back style. Other collaborators of the show’s music, such as Fat Jon, Tsutchie, and Force of Nature, added to its romantic style that did not sound like any other Hip-Hop artist out there at the time, or any other musician for that matter.
Video uploaded by babypa (YouTube)
The show ran from 2003 to 2004 on the late night block channel, Adult Swim. After Samurai Champloo’s commercial explosion, fans from around the globe squandered for more of the cool and laid-back sound from Jun especially. Although the show did receive reputable success, it still served as an arcane show for those who understood its unconventional style. With this menial exposure, as well as YouTube and other music services still in its latent form, Nujabes continued to be an underground artist.
Unfortunately, on February 26, 2010, the same month he turned thirty-six, Jun was involved in a traffic accident in the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway. He passed away before an ambulance could get a chance to recover him. After Hyde-Out Production’s website exposed the news, the underground Hip-Hop community was appalled by his untimely passing.
By 2010, YouTube had declared itself as one of the most visited sites on the internet. Throughout the world, many internet users resorted to YouTube for specific music, film, lecture, and short video content. This was thanks to YouTube’s recommendation feature, where the user would be suggested similar content based on the video they’ve watched. This was also peculiar for formerly-deceased music that managed to revive in YouTube’s platform.
I had first discovered Nujabes when I was thirteen, perusing through On-Demand channels early in the morning before I had to rush to school. I flipped on one of the episodes of Samurai Champloo they had at the time and was immediately entranced the introduction track to the episode. I did not bother proceeding with the episode, as I would retrace back to the beginning of the introduction, over and over again. The song entitled Battlecry was one of the most poignant songs I had ever listened to at that point. I had the track stuck in my mind throughout the whole school day, as I rushed back home to fling my backpack on my bed and reach for my laptop to discover more of Jun’s music.
At the time, the majority of his music did not reach over 300,000 views on YouTube, which was a feat in itself. His infamous Modal Soul album had just reached 1,000,000 views by 2011. Although Jun’s music was just starting to accumulate attention, young beat smiths of the time reached out of their way to upload music influenced by Jun’ style.
Much of these young musicians took Jun’s subtle approach to Hip-Hop and implanted their favorite Jazz and Soul samples into their beats. One of the earlier experimenters to help establish the movement, by the name of Sinitus Tempo, had followed Jun’s formula of eluding soul before anything else. Around this time, many musicians found an appreciation for older Jazz culture that led to the resurgence of legends such as Miles Davis and Bill Evans.
Video uploaded by sinitus (YouTube)
Ever since his passing in 2010, there has been a widening rise in the popularity of Instrumental Hip Hop. This rise gave way for Jun’s influence to expand against the former surface and allow young beat makers to showcase their love for sampling and languid vibrations. If you would do a simple search on Instrumental Hip-Hop music, you would be given a plethora of options for compilations composed by different producers from around the globe.
With the advent of SoundCloud, this movement only amplified into nearly everyone’s recommended playlist. This popularity reached out to high school and college students especially, inducing a calming aura that allows subtle concentration on their schoolwork.
Now looking through Jun’s music on YouTube, nearly every track has reached at least over two million views, with Modal Soul now holding over fifteen million views as of July of 2018.
The reason behind the unexpected popularity of Jun’s music is simple. Jun held one ear for 1950’s Jazz and cultural music and held the other year for his love for old-school Hip-Hop music, such as A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla. Although their music during the 1990’s surged into the mainstream model, their sound slowly waned from mainstream focus to make room for Rap music’s boisterous club sound.
Nujabes managed to revitalize the old-school sound with cultural flavor and his love for the simple things in life. His beats cherish the current moment and allow you to sit back and feel the pleasurable vibrations.
In today’s disparaging political climate, people more than ever need those moments. Jun’s music, as well as the countless number of fans and beat disciples only support that claim. Now that the internet allows anyone to discover their favorite sound with more options than what radio and television allowed, this cultivates musical innovation to occur once in a while.
Regardless of which musicians claim to be the best around, or who generates the most income for themselves, listeners are smart enough to distinguish talent from drivel. Seba Jun’s legacy only proves that. When gold gets discovered, it rings the fellow discoverer a sense of wealth. Whenever I listen to Jun’s music, I don’t feel any other feeling besides serenity. Many of his other fans understand that as well. Seba Jun’s legacy will someway or another, prevail against future obstacles until the other patch of gold gets discovered.
This article has been published with nerdyscoop.com