Right, this is just taking the piss – there have been more decent hip-hop albums and projects out this year than in the last five years put together which makes 2011 officially the year that proper hip-hop was resurrected. And here’s Japanese producer Kazahaya with the latest proof of that in the shape of Soul Is Yours. The LP is a ten track set of which nine have guest vocalists on rhyme detail. And as a measure of how highly Kaza’s production is taken you only need to take a look at who’s doing the guest spots: highest profile are Camp Lo and D-Stroy (of Arsonists fame) plus recent Def Jam signing Wax and his twin bro Herbal T (who appear twice) but the LP also features the talents of rappers Paw Dukes, Paulie Rhyme, Daichi Diez and the Finnish soul singer who’s big in Japan (and presumably Finland) Tuomo.
Strictly speaking, Kazahaya is all about the boom-bap and he’s certainly been busy since the original mash-up version of Remember Hip-Hop came out. Re-versioned for this album, Remember Hip Hop (2010) now comes with new lyrical fire from Herbal T, Wax, D-Story and Braille which recognises that some may find ‘golden era’ worship a little tiresome. And then pays homage to the golden era by dissing anyone who thinks that worshipping the golden era is a bit tiresome, “Oh – great – another song where they reminiscing/ Saying old school names like they ever listen/ Know Rakim’s song ‘Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em?/ Say, ‘no’ and I’ll smack you with a television.” This is the only cut which is self-consciously lo-fi though. Pretty much everywhere else the production is cleaner and the snares ridiculously punchy. This boom-bap might remember ’91 but it isn’t trying to sound like it was from then – it has the heaviness of the P Brothers The Gas LP but the tempos are faster and it’s a lot more upbeat and funky. So that you don’t have any trouble remembering what Kaza’s project is all about, Braille spells the message out with his righteous hook on battle rhyme Fake The Funk “I don’t fake the funk, cuz the funk don’t need no fake from me!” Elsewhere, on their other guest appearance Every Little Lie, Wax & Herbal T have a look at the pathetic lies told by men in pretty much every aspect of their lives. Well, I say men, it’s probably just them – but the amusement is to be found in how the lies come back to bite the spinner on the ass. Then there’s Camp Lo who get a suitably Philly soul-laden beat while D-Stroy features on Sounds Of The City which sounds something like De La Soul might if they were making 3 Feet High And Rising now and hellbent on blowing your speakers. And what’s wrong with that? Kazahaya, then – he don’t fake the funk.
(Out soon on KZ Japan)