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New Yurufuwa Gang: “Palm Tree”

One of the more jarring experiences you can have at a Japanese rap show is watching a relatively straightforward performer go on…and then be followed by Yurufuwa Gang. Recently, I watched Keiju of collective Kandytown (once known as Young Juju) play club Unit to an excited crowd, and like a lot of Japanese rappers, it felt more like a guy trying too hard to re-create what’s happening Stateside at the expense of anything interesting (kids LOVE “Lonely Nights” though). Fun, but a little frail. Yurufuwa Gang followed, and delivered 30-some minutes of wonky rap, drawn mainly from last year’s excellent Mars Ice House, ending their set with harsh screaming that made me worry for my ears. They are on their own planet, and thank god for that.

“Palm Tree” practically exists as vapor. The beat is barely there, giving way to synth washes. Sophiee’s verses dissolve almost as soon as the words leave her mouth, and while Ryugo Ishida ends up a little more solid, the music also swallows him up as everything drifts by. This is barely there, more a wisp of smoke or fleeting memory then rave up. While parallels can be drawn to American artists quite easily — part of my enjoyment of “Palm Tree” stems from Playboi Carti’s Die Lit being my most-listened-to US album of 2018 so far — the pair find their own space in this ether, creating something warm, inviting and a little melancholy. It’s their own corner, far from everyone else in Japanese hip-hop, and it’s where they come up with some of the country’s best ideas. Listen above.