After forming the Krush Posse in 1987, Tokyo’s DJ Krush made a name for himself in Japan as a solo artist with a number of jazz-based hip-hop singles, soundtrack remixes and compilation tracks. In the US, his imports helped inspire Guru’s Jazzmatazz fusion; Krush and Stictly Turntablized make it clear his mix of turntable scratching and electronic sequencing with live instrumentation outstrips the efforts of other jazz/hip-hop hybridizers. Rather than simply juxtapose horns with beats, Krush brings together the most adventurous aspects of hip-hop with the free-spiritedness of avant-garde jazz.
The American edition of Krush is a milestone, a dizzying collision of genres. The DJ improvises in a variety of jazz modes with trumpet players Kazufumi Kodama and Nobutaka Kuwabara, saxophonist Koichiro Samukawa, bassists Takeharu Hayakawa and Osamu Marumoto and pianist Ken Shima. “Roll & Tumble” begins with an hypnotic hip-hop beat and deep bass before stopping on a dime. Then it erupts into a trickling piano solo. “On the Dub-ble” adds dub bass to its mix of beats, scratching and muted Miles Davis-styled trumpet. “Into the Water” takes the Miles-like psychedelic influence even further into the mystic. The few vocal tracks — featuring Monday Michiru and Sonya Vallet — are reminiscent of Sade’s cool, jazzy pop, but with more adventurous instrumentation. DJ Krush’s potential impact on the future of electronic and DJ-based music cannot be overstated.
With much less of an explicit jazz element, Meiso involves such American notables as C.L. Smooth, Guru and the Roots to rap over the late-night beats. Still, it’s Krush’s show all the way. Whether behind them or on their own, his sensuous grooves-which calmly fold together Eastern and Western elements-are far more potent than any of the rhymes, opening the doors to further fascinating intercultural exploration of the space between foursquare hip-hop and floating ambient techno.