While Asian-American hip-hop collective 88rising’s making a viral sensation around the world and K-POP acts like BTS or BLACKPINK are going into the U.S. market with hip-hop oriented imagery, the underground hip-hop scenes around Eastern Asia has been quite interesting for years. Throughout several cities in Japan, maybe especially Tokyo, the new generation of hip-hop acts is emerging and changing the game.
Kid Fresino began his career as a producer and DJ for hip-hop group Fla$hBacks in 2013. Soon he also started to rap and released his own solo works in parallel with the group. Switching Japanese and English alternately, he spits verses in a sticky, slightly off-the-pocket but groovy manner. He’s been known for being prolific as both producer and rapper (lots of guest appearances and collaboration such as Somewhere, a double name album with the Nagoya-based rapper C.O.S.A.) but since returning to Japan from a few years stay in NY he turned his direction a bit.
In 2017, as he moved back to Tokyo he formed a band with talented instrumental players. With the band, he’s been exploring a more genre-bending approach since then, which was first accomplished in the EP Salve (2017) and this first step led him to the singular sound of ài qing. The band’s members are now Jungo Miura (Ba., from PETROLZ), Yusaku Sato (Key. etc.), Shun Ishiwaka (Dr.) and Utena Kobayashi (Perc.). As they are all highly regarded players in their own field, this band certainly deserves to be called a “super band”.
In contrast to Salve which was full of pretty smooth, neo-soul like tracks, ài qing opens with the very complex polyrhythmic tune “Coincidence”. Although the members of the band are heavily influenced by and trained in contemporary Jazz, it sounds much more solid like prog- or post-rock things. Here, Kid Fresino takes a unique approach that is a bit different from the sort of post-Soulquarians style ensemble. You can hear it in five out of thirteen tracks in this album, “Coincidence”, M5 “Winston”, M6 “CNW”, M9 “not nightmare”, M11 “Nothing is still”.
On the other hand, this album features beats from cutting-edge electronic music producers in Japan including Seiho and Kenmochi Hidefumi (Wednesday Campanella) along with the hip-hop artisan BACHLOGIC, the bright new comer VaVa, and Kid Fresino himself. Futuristic bangers by Seiho are indeed my favorites, particularly M7 “Fool me twice” featuring 5lack has a tense atmosphere in its minimalistic sound design. Kid Fresino and Seiho keep on working together and recently, they released “720” which is a rather short but def banger with acid synths and breakbeats.
Of course, the other featured rappers, NENE and Ryugo Ishida from Yurufuwa Gang, Chinza Dopeness, Campanella,