DJ Krush - “Big City Lover”
Abstrakt Workshop 2 (A Collection Of Trip Hop And Jazz)
Song released in 1994. Compilation released in 1996.
Trip Hop / Acid Jazz
When hip hop culture began seeping into Japan in the early 80s, DJ Krush was there for it. At the time, he was in quite a downward spiral. Being a young member within the yakuza’s ranks, he had just received a truly horrifying message from a rival organization: a napkin containing his best friend’s severed finger. Needing a brief moment of escape from his compounding stress, Krush decided to catch a movie. On a pure whim, he picked Wild Style, hip hop’s audiovisual magnum opus at the time. The way the film depicted a renegade lower-middle class lifestyle that blended beats, rapping, b-boying, and graffiti was something that left a deep impression on him, and so, the following day, he decided to cut himself off entirely from the yakuza and immediately devote his life to turntables. Over the next decade, Krush would build a massive record collection of hip hop and jazz and gradually learn to DJ and produce. Eventually, through dedication, he became known as one of the world’s most inventive turntablists and one of Japan’s greatest hip hop producers.
1994 saw the release of Krush’s self-titled debut album in Japan. A year later, it made its way to the US on Shadow Records, and in 1996, Shadow compiled a jazzy trip hop double disc called Abstrakt Workshop 2. Included on that comp is a track off of Krush’s debut called “Big City Lover.”
“Big City Lover” is a great, heady and jazzy nodder that mixes Krush’s hypnotic and sparse boom-bap production with lovely vocal contributions from Sonya Vallet, who, to this day, remains mostly unknown. Krush anchors his track with a vintage-sounding hip hop backbeat, which consists of a few altered jazz samples: slowed down and dubbed out bass from Miles Davis’ “Stuff,” a mini snare roll from Lou Donaldson’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” and a bouncy drum sequence from Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel.” With this set in, he provides a subtle, but important set of mellow and warm keyboard tones which quietly fill in the silence between each drumbeat and play a big part in setting the song’s overall mood. Complementing Vallet on the chorus are a looped melodic sample of scale-climbing, dusty piano keys, which intersect with and are underlaid by cloudy dazes of reverberating and dissipating melancholic horns that sound like the cries that emanate from a lonely back-alley busker’s trumpet on an idyllic summer night in an otherwise nondescript city.
A wonderful piece of minimal mid-90s jazzy trip hop from this Japanese legend. Stay the fuck inside you freaks.