Nujabes has been described as a legend. Though he probably wouldn’t want to be known that way.
Before his unfortunate passing in February 2010, Jun Seba — stage name, “Nujabes” — was a well-loved Hip-Hop producer residing in Japan. His work ranged from classic Hip-Hop Breakbeats to New Age forms of Jazz and Classical music, and his signature sound earned him the respect of his listeners and colleagues alike. Nujabes became widely-known through the surge in popularity of an anime (a Japanese cartoon) called Samurai Champloo, to which he composed most of the Hip-Hop soundtrack. His breakbeats, especially, became popular among Bboys and Breakdancers around the world, and could be heard out of their boomboxes and CD players during dance jams.
From an abstract perspective
So many people have eloquently described Nujabes’ musical style, it’s a bit difficult to articulate it without committing minor plagiarism. To me, his music holds an aura of relaxation, something we all experience. It’s that unspeakable, ineffable emotion we get whenever we’re extremely content just doing what we’re doing in the present moment. For some people it comes from cooking and eating their favorite food, for others it’s something like taking a perfectly heated shower, having a fire in the Winter or a sprinkler in the Summer. That feeling really is the simplest form of enjoyment — the ‘simple pleasures’, if you will. Listening to Nujabes also incites nostalgia; old experiences reappear in my head and stir themselves around, not settling until the music stops. Too bad there are no chairs in there.
From a concrete perspective
From track to track, Nujabes seems to be able to reuse the same skeletal fundamentals of his beats: the kick makes a punch and adds a catchy, bouncy feel, the snare sits on the usual 2 and 4 beats, providing a reference point — something you can rely on — and both lie underneath a hi-hat that keeps time, usually in eighths but in this case, sixteenths. This style of sequencing is a staple in Hip-Hop breakbeats, and Nujabes relies on it to structure many of his tracks. However, he also adds just a dash of his own syncopation to mix it up and make each and every beat its own.
Then there are his melodies. Nujabes’ use of Jazz instruments alongside his versatile drumlines is prevalent and works well. There’s something about the way a saxophone or hollowbody guitar sounds with an upright bass and a fresh Hip-Hop break that’s just so light and agile.
Overall I’m sure you can tell, I’m a very big fan of Nujabes’ style and his work. There will likely be some more Nujabes later on in the blog, since his tracks make for excellent examples of the Hip-Hop Breakbeat genre. That and the fact that I can’t help but dissect them. Well then, I’m off! Keep your eyes out for a Bonus Point here soon.