Hello! Project turns 20 this year, and everyone celebrates in their own way, I’m sure. If you are Japanese artist Dale Nixon, you call up your Tokyo rapper friend Valknee and you record a hip-hop EP celebrating the agency behind Morning Musume and many others. Hello comes advertised as “HelloHop,” and Dale Nixon exclusively samples H!P songs for the beats, including some ballads based on the piano-centric inclusions (I’ll cop to not having a deep enough knowledge of the Hello! Project discography to pick up on what specific songs they draw from — I’m more of a “Want!” era man, myself). Anyway, go beyond the gotta-hear-this packaging, Hello stands as a solid rap EP. The highlight comes right away on the confident “Super Ultra Hyper Sayumi Time,” which bounces forward and allows Valknee to deliver her strongest verses here, touching on food…a lot of it…before swerving into a more melodic hook. The remaining two songs are more sentimental — those piano notes! — and finds Valknee in a slightly more reflective mood. Love those idols or not, listen above.
Valknee also recently collaborated with Nagoya’s J Gryphin on “Nice Pic,” a slightly warped number that places her rapping against a dreamy beat that feels like it is slowly deteriorating. If the cute stuff doesn’t do it for you, this six-shots-deep-after-midnight number should. Listen below.