I’ve been meaning to write a post, any post, anything at all about Nujabes for the past three years. It’s never amounted to more than a couple of words here, a couple of words there, a nod in his direction by naming this site after a song of his… but ultimately my thinking has been, “what on earth could I say about Jun Seba that hasn’t been said before and better than I ever could?“
The answer is “probably nothing.” But hey.
The fact of the matter is that at this point in time I have no qualms about calling Nujabes one of my all time favorite artists, comfortably putting him right there next to Opeth and The Beatles.
It was my handsome, longtime friend and once co-blogger wu-san who introduced me to him some years ago. I must’ve been listening to one of his podcasts when he interrupted his monologue by saying “…and here’s some real hip hop for you” before playing something by Nujabes.
Hip hop. It’s a genre of music that I honestly did not even consider a genre of music, much like how I originally thought of metal as nothing more but mindless screaming and banging of instruments. However, Nujabes — again, much like Opeth — worked for me as a gateway drug, something that enabled me to enjoy a genre of music I previously couldn’t (and wouldn’t) take seriously. Admittedly, even a couple of years in my steps into hip hop land still haven’t reached very far yet, and this is because I still struggle with finding something as… perfect as Nujabes.
But then in a lot of ways it feels weird to pigeonhole Nujabes in a genre like hip hop. It feels weird to put him in any genre. It’s not just because of the stereotype about what “hip hop” is supposed to be… it’s something a bit more personal in my case.
After Nujabes’ death in 2010, I find myself thinking about him more and more with each passing day. This sounds silly, but it’s come to the point where, quite honestly, in my mind he’s sort of become this surreal, almost a mythical character. Yeah, I know, he was just a guy, and there’s probably a word for my “obsession” about him (I’m sure it’s nothing more than some basic high school psychology). But I carry him around in my thoughts a lot of the time. Some of them are regrets… thoughts about how I would’ve loved to see him live. How much I would’ve appreciated being able to hear more of his music. How much I really don’t dig the fact that he passed away.
But mostly, it’s thoughts about how damned excellent of a person he seemed to have been and, more than anything, how good I feel when listening to his music, physically and otherwise.
As for Jun’s music… his perfect, mellow blend of hip hop beats and jazz deliciousness. His music is a comfort to me when I’m sober, when I’m drunk and when I’m hungover. I listen to him when I’m brushing my teeth, when I’m shaving, when I’m studying, when I’m on the bus to work, when I’m at work. He’s great for when I’m trying to relax, when I’m asleep and when I’m waking up. Hell, I’d play him at both my wedding and my funeral. There’s probably no wrong time to spin some Nujabes.
So you could say that he sort of transcends the whole “genre” thing in my mind. Still, I guess hip hop (jazz hop?) is the genre that he falls under, and like someone on YouTube so eloquently put it: “with Nujabes gone, it’s kind of like a hole in the heart of hip hop.“
To me it certainly does feel that way.
As a final bittersweet goodbye from Nujabes a whole three years after his passing, just earlier this week they released what is quite likely to be the last new music from him that we’ll ever get to hear. Luv (sic) Grand Finale (or part 6) is the last of his posthumous work, finished lovingly by friends Shing02 and Uyama Hiroto. My words couldn’t do the track any justice. It’s hauntingly beautiful and the fact that, according to close friend Shing02, they only discovered the beat to this song on Nujabes’ cell phone of all places after his death in a car accident… well, let’s just say that it doesn’t help the least bit in dissolving the thoughts of mystical grandeur that I’ve come to associate him with. The Grand Finale is also accompanied by some (to say the least) fitting words by Shing02:
after six come seven and eight
access code to the pearly gates
they say heaven can wait
and you speak of fate
a finale to a play for my mate
I see the angels draw the drapes
over the earthscape
where the wine is the spirit of grapes
gotta finish what we started, so I cut the tape
as our records will stay on rotate
And that’s that. With no new music from Nujabes forthcoming, we’re just going to have to make do with what we have. But of course, luckily the little that we do have is nothing less than magical stuff. To end this post, I guess the only thing I really can say is that if you’re a a fan of music and you don’t already know Nujabes, please do yourself a favor and check out his material. So much of it has a timeless, immortal quality to it, you won’t believe me before you hear it for yourself.
It’s absolutely beautiful stuff.
it’s funny how the music put times in perspective
add a soundtrack to your life to perfect it
whenever you are feeling blue
keep walking and we can get far
wherever you are
“Till death do us apart, and it did.” Rest in Beats, Nujabes.