4 June, 2008@6:54 am
In this day and age, every subgenre of creation receives an equal platform for public attention. That platform is the internet, which you are using right now, and was invented by Al Gore on that legendary stormy evening when he was flying a kite with a calculator tied to it. By using your internet, you can obtain a degree in dental assistance, or become a schooled expert of Japanese culture, all without leaving the comfort of your own home. Simply Netflix some Godzilla and anime gems, buy some throwing stars on Ebay and look up the number for that questionable sushi restaurant that just opened in the mall. Log on, wax off.
I don’t know if Esoteric actually spent time in the land of the Rising Sun, but Esoteric v. Japan (Pterodactyl Takes Japan!) is a vicarious adventure to the Far East via lush sample-based production. Tracks like “Feudal Lords” and “Knifegirl” are instant hip hop classics with punchy drums and sample chopping massacres that sound like the bastard children of the RZA and DJ Premier.
This album is more Matsumoto than Miyazaki, full of constant action and sporadic plot lines. Like most cool stuff from Japan, it should be enjoyed with your stoner friends and hidden from your girlfriends. Eso has dug deep to expose us to a broad range of inner nerdus, employing a flood of diverse source material ranging from Godzilla toy commercials to Japanese surf rock and everything in between. He beefs it up with versatile boom bap, and through precision sequencing creates the effect of channel surfing through a haunted Japanese film archive. Oh, and he raps on most of it and its really good.
7L and Esoteric (7LES) have been appealing to the young at heart since 1996, with their debut single “Be Alert” which sampled the theme from Transformers (including that coveted transformation sound effect). Esoteric v. Japan is in the same vein, with an abundance of clever references in both the production and vocal content: “I’m on some Rachael McAdams, you’re on some Jamie Lee Curtis” I know Esoteric has seen JLC endorsing that yogurt that helps you shit more often!
Golden Age aesthetics run rampant throughout this mix, including crisp drums, chopped samples interrupted by DJ cuts and dialogue, and Eso’s vicious rhymes. The pace is always quick, and there are endless instrumental and vocal breaks to let you forget you’re listening to a rap record.
A few legit Japanese emcees contribute for street cred, and folks with even a passing interest in Japanese music and film will find themselves wanting to practice flying roundhouse kicks in their bedrooms while this is playing. Esoteric v. Japan is as entertaining as the entire Karate Kid Trilogy, and dare I say, the esoteric-ness of it is worth the acquisition. Long live the creative vision. –Chris Seeger
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