Vincent Knox A&E Editor
Sun Jeba, better known by his stage name, Nujabes, was a Japanese music producer, arranger, and composer. Nujabes has two albums, “Metaphorical Music” and “Modal Soul,” and one posthumous album, “Spiritual State.” One of his more popular undertakings was contributing to the soundtrack for the anime “Samurai Champloo” with songs like “Battlecry,” “Auraurian Dance,” and “Shiki no Uta.” His style blends hip-hop, jazz, and funk, creating sounds that really stick in the listener’s mind.
Nujabes uses many samples in his songs, taking them from songs that many from my generation may not have heard of. He also has many featured artists, each bringing their own flair to songs. My favorite album of his is “Modal Soul,” which opens with the catchy melody of “Feather” before a couple of well-written rap verses by Cise Star and Akin come in. Following is “Ordinary Joe” featuring Terry Callier. My favorite line from this song is, “Each little bird in the sky, is just a little bit freer than I.” “Reflection Eternal,” the third song on this album, is more mellow and ambient, but one of my favorites. It repeats the phrase, “Hair piled up, piled up high / Your hair piled up, piled up high / You’re a flower, you’re a river, you’re a rainbow.” The simple but captivating instrumentals paired with the vocals make this song truly something special.
The fourth song on “Modal Soul” is “Luv(sic) Part 3” and is part of a special six-part hexology that I highly recommend giving a listen. Nujabes and Shing02 (the rapper on the songs) work together to weave a spectacular story about love and loss, which in a way turned real with Nujabes’ passing in 2010. Only up to part three was finished at the time, but Shing02 decided to continue and record parts four and five. There was no part six until an unfinished loop was found on Nujabes’ cell phone. They made sure to preserve the sound Nujabes created, and even recorded in his studio for the remainder of the series.
Track seven is “The Sign” featuring Pase Rock. This song is special and different due to the way that it comes off as more of a poem or spoken word than rap. It has a jazzy beat that Pase Rock talks over, telling the listener to read the signs, not ignore them. He says, “I look, I notice, I observe / I read the signs / And the signs are pointing in the wrong direction.” He can tell when things are going wrong and wants others to look at them too, to trust their instincts when it comes to danger and what the right things for people to do are.
The next song on the album is “World’s End Rhapsody” and is my favorite song on the album and may be my favorite Nujabes song in general. Almost all, if not all, of the entire song are mixed samples from “Betcha if You Check it Out” by the Quadrophonics. The original song is a funk song from the 70’s, but Nujabes recreates its appeal in his own way. He takes the chorus and repeats it and begins to slowly add to the sound, getting you used to the progression and the feel. The track builds, adding more layers in the form of piano, horn, bongos, and other effects until 3:43 (I checked). The vocals cut out and the song gets taken over by the instruments, which bring the listener into this groove that’s almost indescribable. The vocals then come back in, and the song dances its way forward in an almost nostalgic sense before returning to its original state, carrying the listener magically into the next song, “Modal Soul.”
“Flowers,” the 11th song, takes one word and surrounds it within this cocoon of sound, creating an incredible beat. This seems to be mostly due to the piano. It pushes forward, dancing around itself, and augmenting the chords that form as a result. Listening to it, you don’t realize how quickly the four minutes pass. This song is definitely one of the gems in the album.
“Modal Soul” is one of my all-time favorite albums. It blends genres almost majestically and keeps listeners engaged with its highly detailed instrumentation. The songs all flow from one to another and each one has something that makes it special. I highly recommend Nujabes to all who like music.
“It blends genres almost majestically and keeps listeners engaged with its highly detailed instrumentation.”