Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Album Review: Designed People 'Let's B Free'

I've always wanted to visit Japan. It's a place I imagine to be very exotic but also strangely familiar. For years Japan has been a destination for those that seek the newest and latest. Whether it be cellphones, computers, cameras, or pop art, Japan is where its at. And if you don't believe me just ask Kanye, Pharrell, and Lupe. Japan has also made a name for itself in the music scene, and I'm not talking about J-Pop. The Japanese have come a long way from drunken salarymen and hipster teens singing N'Sync at karaoke bars. Japan has also become a destination for some dope hip-hop and soul. And if you don't believe me then check out Designed People 'Let's B Free.'

This is the first album from Shin-Ski and Koji Taninaka, leaders of the Japanese hip-hop scene. The two joined together as 'Designed People' under the motto to “Love the good old days and create the new better days.” This is what they were attempting to accomplish with 'Let's Be Free,' a compilation that pays homage too the good old days of hip-hop, soul, and dance, and combines it with a new sound to create something fresh, and they succeed for the most part.

The album sounds sort of space aged in a way, even the artwork which is from Masakazu Kitayama is futuristic. After a eclectro, techno/pop Intro, it transitions to to classic soul inspired dance track 'City Lights' featuring Adriana Evans. A track so funky that it will have the older folk reminiscing of 70's basement parties underneath the black light and the young folk wishing that they could have experienced it. Next up though is the feel good but less than stellar dancehall/hip-pop 'W.I.O.' Featuring Light and Mr. Man from the Bush Babees on here as the Dub Rock Allstars. Its a catchy feel good track that ultimately falls flat lyrically and just gets annoying, and is immediately skipped well before the second chorus

Where this album shines though is in it's production. Shin-Ski and Koji have created a solid set of tracks that draw influence from several different genres to create a new but familiar one a the same time. The ultra smooth 'Favorite Things' in haunting in it's jazzy melody and performed beautifully by Mutsuko Kawamoto bringing a new twist on his old soulful jazz standard. 'Breathe' is also a nice, feel good track by Jazz Club princess Monday Michiru. Laid over a nice steady drum beat and keys it's a song that begs you to move and vibe with it, this is definitely the gem of the album.

But while the jazzy soul and dance selections on the album are strong, the same can't be said of of the hip-hop tracks which thankfully are not many. On 'Melo' rapper Pudgee weaves the heard it all before tale of the reluctant hustler that wants to leave the hood to make it big in hip-hop. His erratic off beat flow and pseudo gangster lyrics don't seem to fit on this compilation and frankly it's quite elementary. With lines like 'don't want the life you rappers live/give me street/you like a bad landlord/cause you never give me heat' are mediocre at best. Justus League affiliate Spectac does much better on 'Best of Me' which is good because it at least give the album one solid hip-hop track to qualify it.

Another point of contention is how heavy this album is on interludes. Those aforementioned space aged segments are placed between almost every song and breaks each selection apart so abruptly that it only serves as a distraction. They seem to have no purpose and are skipped over like an annoying nuisance

Overall 'Let's B Free' is a decent compilation and a good addition to the ever growing Hip-Hop/Soul/Jazz scene of Japan. Unfortunately it's not up to par with (excuse the pun) the other foreign exchange offerings that have found it's way to the States, but there is music on here that will connect to the listener and I recommend it just as something different for your ears to listen too. Japan is still a destination that I want to make it too, this is just more motivation.

JayTeeDee gives Designed People 'Lets B Free' 5 out of 7 Head Nods

*Head Nod Scale
1=Don't waste your time like I did mine.
2=Waste your time like I did mine but I dare you to disagree.
3=Well, there was the single.
4=If it were a hand in spades there's "two and a possible".
5=It's a "good" album. Meaning at least 3 or 4 solid songs.
6=Really Good Project. Has the "Rewind Factor" more than once.
7=The number of completion. Great Album. Instant Classic.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home