I do not profess to being a guy who knows much about Japanese hip-hop. I have about as basic an understanding of the scene one can get, but that’s it – I don’t know the intricacies or the regional differences or even, like, the fashions (I think Yankees’ caps are popular?). What I do know, though, is that there is not a shortage of jazzy beats going around Japan nowadays. Post Nujabes, the default type of backing track favored by rappers and producers is one built off of jazz samples, somewhere between J. Dilla and De La Soul. Trying to find someone making beats like this that sticks out – who can flip a jazz sample into something more than “pleasant” – isn’t easy. Often, finding dudes who do something entirely different – I see ya Tofubeats, what’s up Seiho – is easier.
So why draw a circle around Supple’s Minato Tape?, a collection of beats very, very much devoted to the jazzy side of hip-hop production? Partially because of economics – the whole shebang is free, and comes with 16 tracks, some of which go on surprisingly long for rap beats. Mainly because it’s good – even if Minato Tape reinforces Japanese hip-hop production stereotypes rather than break them, it sounds damn good doing it. “Gig” shows how to cut up a jazzy instrumental into something begging to be rapped over – preferably by Slum Village circa the turn of the century – while “Minato” sounds downright cinematic thanks to the strings at the center of it. Sometimes Supple gets a little too relaxed – “School” might soundtrack PBS dead time in the near future – but makes up for it with some daring moments. “Wass” lasts 46 seconds, but seemingly bends space-time fabric during that stretch. “Hinode” brings to mind Donuts, except drawn out a bit longer. The whole tape ends with a run of six songs that seem looser than what came before, a chance for Supple to show off his fun side. Nothing new, but worth the listen all the same. Listen below, or get it here.