In general, the critical move away from “guilty pleasures” has probably been a good thing. People who are generally not obsessed with decimal-point scores and the inner workings of music content still use it but, as they always have, ultimately don’t care. Yet for writers, it has probably lead to more free writing and less posturing, all good things. But sometimes, I think clinging to the idea of guilt in liking something had some positives, like forcing you to think about just why you felt some sort of connection to the music.
Yurufuwa Gang set off all sorts of inner alarm bells, starting with the fact that their song “Gra-Thef” is a song inspired by Grand Theft Auto, as the video above hints at. The duo of Ryugo Ishida and Sophiee — with the bulk of their music produced by beatmaker Automactic — are joined by Lunv Loyal, and “Gra-Thef” is a joyfully goofy song, every voice just dunked in Auto-tune, from the first utterance of “bitch” onward. Automatic conjures up a gleeful woodwind-guided beat that adds to the vibe, and the whole thing teeters pretty close to that dangerous “too close to rap stereotypes” zone…but kinda skips above it, because they embrace it so much (gun shot sounds, beating up stuffed cops in the video) and make it sound so fun. It helps that the whole thing reminds me of Sicko Mobb.
This whole atmosphere extends to all of their music, from the automobile-centric jam “Fuckin Car” to the slow-mo come-on of “Dippin’ Shake,” anchored by a clever-enough metaphor that Yurufuwa Gang instantly turns to simile by just stating what they are on to. They put out one album earlier this year — coming out properly via Space Shower Music later this Spring — and it opens with a song sampling Cults, which had me on board from the get go. I have been listening to this a lot lately.
And here’s where the guilt comes in…am I an idiot for liking something that can get really stupid, but sounds so great? I’ve wrestled with this for the last few days, and have come away convinced that, yeah, it is sorta goofy, but that goofiness is part of what makes it so great…because a lot of the sillier details really just enhance the sense of fun Yurufuwa Gang embrace. And, despite whatever Hypebeast writer types up between Yeezy Boost cleaning sessions, most contemporary Japanese rap that gets any sort of media attention is joyless stuff, guys who found out about Future and became so focused on sounding like him that they forgot to import over any of the really joyful parts of his music (or, worse still, the guys who refuse to let 1992 be). Yurufuwa Gang don’t care, and just take the best elements of U.S. hip-hop and play around with it, creating something charming from it. Listen above.