KOHH X LONDON

Lex Jones speaks to Kohh fans on 2 July at Electrowerkz in London. Part video below.

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Kohh – Dirt Album Review

REVIEWED :  5 / 5

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https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dirt/id1047491457 – Buy Kohh – Dirt Album

It was in his February 2014 vice documentary Rising from the Tokyo projects. Meandering along the bridge with interviewer and chubby younger sibling ‘Lil Kohh’ the Yellow Tape’s star proclaims  ‘I’m surrounded by people who stab people and are drug addicts but we chose not to follow that path and rap instead. Though a well worn ‘ghetto boy’ cliche ,that falsely limits viable options to escape poverty , it does intrigue you as to what a  Tokyo highrise might look like. More importantly it places Kohh among the fabric of the genre.Whilst rapping has long moved on from being exclusively the sport of the socially disadvantaged , the knowledge that Kohh’s widowed Mother wrestled with drug addiction and subsequently neglected him and his brother for large parts of their adolescence , starts to offer an insight into the forgotten children of a heavily ordered society. Adorning themselves in bold Versace print and gleefully waving multiple packages of illicit substances at the camera, the Riverside Mobb have an unabashed recklessness less familiar to Japanese hip hop.

Kohh’s had status in his home city for a while now, but in truth the feature on Korean rapper Keith Ape’s  IT G MA diversified his fanbase greatly. The free download turned into a viral smash , generating completely unexpected income and opportunity for the now major owned Hi-lite records.  Pretty soon Keith and his Cohort brothers, Okasion & JayAllDay could be seen on Youtube duppying mic , to engaged crowds. Though Kohh was notably absent from several high profile American performances his contribution had been noticed by the songs admirers.  Something about his conversational flow spat through grilled teeth , whilst  brandishing a beer  and the scrawled purple font displaying ‘arigato’ at the perfect moment seemed share worthy to the internet folk.  So a mixtape, plagiarism dispute , and several European video shoots later , we’re here.The Thirteen track album ‘Dirt’ is an attempt to make good on the attention he’s found himself subject to. But internet affection is fleeting , impatient and extremely conditional. For everyone’s sake , this needs to count

Be Me

The album opens with a vintage American crooner singing of  lost love. The mournful tone broken by a cautious drum beat and Kohh asking rhetorically ‘you got money’ before assuring us that his crews days as have nots are behind them and taunting envious scenesters who wished they were him.

Dirt Boys

A synth that sounds like a malfunctioning time machine draws us into track 2. The album’s title ushers us into the album proper. Kohh flo’s rapidly about excessive spending with his family of delinquents , boasting that clothes and drugs are in no short supply nowadays. Dutch Montana has an ODB charm about him. Throwing a cryptic bar of rugged wisdom every time your attention starts to waver from his disjointed flow. Loota , the other half of Team Japan on It G ma contributes a bleak outlook on morality announcing ‘results over reason in this cold world.’

Living Legend

The blue hearts influence is most evident in this track. Whilst Kohh repeats the lyric every four bars he is demanding adulation before he self destructs from self indulging impulses. He hints at his own death as no more than an inevitable end to the rollercoaster he’s constructed. To live fast and die young literally never appeared more reasonable.

Now

A sound reminiscent of a burgler alarm gives way only for a menacing bassline, biding its time until its full fury is unleashed. Kohh’s Ya Ya Ya gives a warning this about to be a moment. ‘Living , living  now we’re living now’ he chants as if answering the unasked ‘Was life really that lame before this?’ The charged bass batters home the raucas revelry of a deprived Tokyo boy , who’s achieved social mobility overnight following his dreams. Self control and modesty are fully myths today.

Hitori

On Hitori he finally caters to his is extensive female fanbase. The song which translates roughly to alone has an almost sarcastically lonely feel to it. In the middle there’s a  bridge with 90’s computer game sounds and in the end we’re led away with a Jazzy keyboard rift.

Tokyo

An attempt at making a city anthem, he beckons his home metropolis relentlessly as if a impatient young prince demanding subjects to gather for his crowning as king. Manipulated vocals incorporated into the drum beat give the whole track a sense of urgency and sees all of his trademark adlibs united for the first time. The exorcistic frantic piano melody of the chorus is what differs this from say Hi -lite records ‘My city ‘ or Devlin’s London city. What this track lacks in city patriotism it makes up for by taking a kodak to the cities shadows.

A Different Day

The first of two features on the album on this track J $tash enters with his trademark growl then goes on to boast on insular folks from his own neighborhood of getting money in Shinjuku and coping jewelry. The autotuned chorus sees Kohh adopt a dancehall inspired delivery to talk of the new horizons that await him.

If I Die Tonight

Getting the feel the album is taking a turn for the sombre. Dutch Montano re-enters over ethereals and a ticking clock drum beat painting a  dark Oji night. With his sometimes odd but endearing style Dutch Montano navigates himself through the beat as Kohh  sings ‘if i died tonight’ repeatedly on the hook. Salu , a firm L.A.R.W favourite ends proceedings with his signature high voice and reflective style.

Shiniyashinai

Stuttered drums and Pitch shifted male harmonies set the tone perfectly.  Kohh unleashes multiple of his signature high pitched call. Whilst percussion rings out every two bars sounding like a xylophone beater running playfully over the ribcage of dead enemies. Kohh name checks John Lennon and uses the track to exemplify a pressing , yet melodic style.

Shoko

Shoko i’ve been informed is a type of mantis shrimp , found in the Western Pacific , though in this case it means Society. Maybe that explains the high pitched vocal declaring   ‘i don’t fuck with you’  Kohh flo’s over the electro pop tinged instrumental with a  good strong variety. A wall of synths arriving part way through verse two ratchet up the drama further. The track ends cinematically with a wave deforming slow down and the panting breath of someone near a carriageway.

Glowing Up (ft J $tash)

Kohh exemplifies the rapid soft rhyming flow that started this journey, J Stash mocks rivals for still being satisfied with hanging out in Soho. The second of Kohh’s verses sees a textbook Chicago flo cut into a new linguistic format before he chants almost absent mindedly that he’s just glowing up.

Kirakuni Yaru

The song translates roughly into easy to do and is The closest Kohh gets on the whole album to singing. Drawing towards the close of the album , i guess it feels time to solidify the message. Once the boasts of  exotic women , fashion and designer drugs expire ,  we’re left with a young man adjusting to fame and whose rise has been alarmingly fast by any standards. To the seas of rap kids he offers encouragement that a tomorrow can be carved out by a determined dreamer.

Orera no seikatsu

So it feels like the album has really already ended and we’re on the hunt for a bonus banger. As a massive Mony Hoarse fan, it felt like my favourite midfielder being subbed on in the 80th to antagonise the opposition  despite us being 4-0 up. He wastes no time in possession with plenty of English expletives and a pressure  flow to pathe the way for Kohh to spray the final chorus of the project.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re looking into future. As his slim frame perfectly stalks the camera surrounded by bright neon lights and city pollution, you wonder how on earth this hasn’t happened yet. How have the west never championed a Japanese rapper. The nation’s contribution to Western hip hop culture has been mighty but traditionally been more aesthetic than musical, e.g Evisu , B.A.P.E as well as uncountable Manga references , including the comic artform being the namesake for one member of UK grime crew, Roll Deep. But for the first time an International Japanese superstar seem conceivable.Theoretically Keith Ape should be the primary benefactor from the viral whirlwind Kohh found himself engulfed in. But i don’t think that’s how it’s going to pan out. This album doesn’t try to mimic what’s already come to pass  in the west. Instead it makes a welcome contribution to our genre’s still assembling idea of what a ‘trap’ rapper actually is.The sub genre allows a punkish liberty, with credibility less dependant on the the body count of an artist’s home city or how many times they make listeners to draw for a thesaurus. Instead trap , favours an ‘attitude over ability approach’.The lack of emphasis on the technical intricacies of lyricism bode well for the rapper seeking to expand his already significant non-japanese speaking fanbase. Kohh is only a well chosen feature away from becoming that Tokyo yout everyone fucks with. Striking visuals and a stella beat selection make this album a solid foundation for himself and other Japanese trap friendly artists to propel himself further into the new age trap movement.  The suicide riddled blocks of Oji have created the Japanese Raps new poster boy.  Broaden your shoulder’s Kohh , an awful lot could be riding on you.

Asian Girls Are Leaders Of The ‘ Femcee’ New School

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Komukai from trio ‘Suiyoubi no Campanella’

Since the beginning of my love affair with Asian hip hop , i’ve found myself being drawn to the scenes female artists . Whether it’s A.O.A’s Jimin with her entrancing yet defiant tone or pioneer Yoon Mi-rae ‘s socially conscious musings of being in a society unfamiliar with  multicultural families, i’ve always found Asian female rappers more advanced than their Western counterparts

Now let me hasten to add , by no means am I implying that the sisterhood of ‘femcess’ on both sides of our Atlantic are without their great talents.Lil Simz , Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot are all valued parts of the tapestry. Just before i began my scribbles i saw Lady Leshurr – Queens Speech Ep 4 soaring into the 3 million views plus. In the M/V she sails down a deserted carriageway delivering boasts of bars,beauty, and Brum city before breaking into a quirky pro dental hygiene hook. No doubt much of the attention can be equated  to the track  featuring in the new Samsung advert Stateside.

But by and large female rappers in the West (definately UK) are collectively less relevant than the guys. This isn’t because woman are any less adept at rapping. Common sense suggests language has always been the forte of the fairer sex. Part of the problem is that Western hip hop at the moment is inherently less accommodating of female presence. Drill ,Trap and grime alike are characterised by restless high hats and menacing bass and hard content, often of a drug , violent or sexual hue.  Of course women can be aggressive and sexual , but the format for expression is so hegemonically masculine. These conditions can be thanked for such lyrical gems as  “you think i’m pussy i dare you to stick your dick in this” ,spoken in 97 by queen of ex-rated rap & Bad Boy’s first lady,  Lil Kim. The problem was that by engaging in hyper-vulgarity she quickly became pidgeon holed a novelty act , almost like a rhyming pornstar. When was the last time you heard someone name Jenna Jameson among their favourite all time actors.  You could argue Lil Kim’s career was more or less shocking an audience sufficiently to listen and then retaining them a little longer due to her affiliations. Slightly dramatic, but the point is that girls aren’t as free to be themselves in Western Hip Hop. The result? Endless Dull 2D interchangeable female rap persona’s bludgeoned of all feminine mystique and a scene desperately in need of consistently strong female presence.

Journey to Tokyo City where you’ll find trio Suiyoubi No Campanella. Their name consists of Italian and Japanese and translates as Wednesday’s Bell.  The female lead vocalist  Komukai has a wistful , melodic rapping style. By combining  exciting jazz tinged , electronica production often with animated videos , the group have created a uniquely Japanese body of work. With subject matters ranging from romance to vampires Komukai makes no apologies for being a rapping female. Infact some of her vocal lightness has often left me feeling envious. Daoko has a similar production style and is another example of  Eastern Hip Hop girl power. Her feature on the viral animated short film  ME ME ME sees her rhyming accompanied by semi-porongraphic imagrey depicting a man being murdered by a sexy vixen he was lusting over from his computer screen a la ‘The Ring.’ That narrative just wouldn’t have worked as well with a male vocalist. Both of these artists are leading beacons for brave new sounds, that enrich our broad church. Rather than checking their Womanhood at the studio door they’ve developed a musical landscape that welcomes them. Artists such as Charisma.com , Makura and Bonjur Suzuki are other great examples of the great female electroinc wave washing over Japan’s Hip Hop Over & Underground.

As I-fans wait impatiently for subs to come out for Unpretty Rapstar 2 , it’s hard to not feel that there’s alot Western females could learn from the rhyming Women out East. Maybe its because Eastern rap doesn’t put such a heavy emphasis on rebellion , narcotics and violence that it’s more accommodating of woman rappers. Or maybe it’s because hip hop has impacted Asian society at a time when gender equality is a more prominent concept than it was in late 1970’s USA. But one thing is for certain. Girls in Asian hip hop fit it better and are finding better responses when they don’t. They have more room to be interesting, cool and beautiful on their own terms.

I state again i don’t wish to insinuate that girls in our scene should be resigned to speaking of heartache and motherhood. I do however, think female rappers could be more relatable to the legions of female fans of the genre , rather than donning a mask of masculine bravado and finding themselves dismissed as eye-candy by men. I hope this changes. Gender balance improves everything. Our genre is no exception. But for now the woman of Asian rap are definitely the leaders of the new school.