Nujabes, otherwise known as Jun Seba, was one of Japan’s most innovative and ingenious Hip-Hop producers. His moniker was just the reverse spelling of his name in Japanese order (Seba Jun). This man was incredibly talented. He was the owner of the Shibuya record stores, T Records, and Guinness Records, as well as being the founder of the independent label Hydeout Productions.
Like many other Japanese artists, Nujabes did lots of collaborations with underground American Hip-Hop artists such as CYNE, Cise Star, Substantial, and many more. He started drawing attention from the underground Hip-Hop audiences with his track Feather and later became most known for his work on the soundtrack of Samurai Champloo. Nujabes was also a member of an experimental collaboration as one-half the production duo Urbanforest.
Nujabes’ style is built around the seamless incorporation of Jazz: smooth melodies, bluesy tunes, and kicked back beats. His music is both philosophical and pleasantly atmospheric– nothing short of masterful. His first album Metaphorical Music is a perfect example of his combination of hip-hop and jazz. While the tracks are mostly considered instrumental, the album features vocals from several artists. Nujabes work on the anime series Samurai Champloo shares many of the same characteristics. The soundtracks feature instrumental pieces, a mid-tempo ballad, and vocals from Oakland MC Shing02 and R&B singer Minmi. His second release Modal Soul acted as a means for vocal contributors to shine over songs that were laced with majestically-crafted rhythms.
Unfortunately, Jun Seba was involved in a fatal traffic accident 0n the night of February 26, 2010. He was only 36 years old. Only 36, yet he passed away a legend. Fellow Japanese musician and close friend of Jun, Shing02, was one of the first to break the news to the American hip-hop community. In his somber eulogy, Shing02 reflected:
Through his soulful music, Nujabes has touched so many people around the world, even beyond his dreams. He was a mysterious character to most as he avoided the public limelight, rarely conducted interviews, so only a few got to know the man behind the signature production. Yet it continued to amaze me how young listeners of all backgrounds learned of his enigmatic name, and expressed support for his music.
Although Nujabes is no longer with us in the physical world, his music lives on. On Saturday, Hydeout released Nujabes’ posthumous album Spiritual State. It is adequately named since Nujabes’ music was so deeply ingrained in the metaphysical. The tracks are calming instrumentals infused with the occasional smooth-flowing rap and the jazz ensemble melodies. On Spiritual State, Jun’s last contemplations and words are channeled through everything from the track titles to the sounds themselves. A simple, humble farewell.