Nujabes (real name: Jun Seba, or 瀬葉 淳, February 7, 1974 February 26, 2010) was a Japanese Hip-Hop producer and DJ who still stands to this day as one of the most highly celebrated artists of his time.
He is known as one of the forerunners of the jazz-based slant of the instrumental hip hop genre, with a distinctly mellow, soulful, and atmospheric approach to sample-based beatmaking that has reflected onto modern production techniques, namely through the 2010s subgenres of "chillhop" and "lo-fi hip-hop", of which he is commonly credited as a Ur-Example.
One of his main claims to fame was his extensive work on the soundtrack of Samurai Champloo, creating its opening theme "Battlecry" and its ending theme "Shiki no Uta," as well as many more songs on the two official soundtracks of the show (Departure and Impression).
Being a very private person, not much is known about his personal life. His career was cut short on February 26, 2010 when he was involved in a late-night traffic accident exiting the Shuto Expressway. About three weeks later on March 17, he was pronounced dead at a Shibuya Ward hospital after several failed revival attempts.
He was working on his fifth studio work, Spiritual State, at the time of his passing. Understandably, those close to him didn't want to let the album fail to see the light of day, so the album was eventually finished and released posthumously at the end of 2011. Furthermore, at the time of Nujabes' passing, the "Luv(sic)" hexalogy of songs made with rapper Shing02 was half-finished, and it was eventually completed.
His personal website can be found here.
Rest in beats.
- Sweet Sticky Thing (mixtape) (1998)
- Hydeout Productions: 1st Collection (compilation) (2003)
- Metaphorical Music (2003)
- Samurai Champloo: Departure (2004)
- Samurai Champloo: Impression (2004)
- Modal Soul (2005)
- Hydeout Productions: 2nd Collection (compilation) (2007)
- Modal Soul Classics (compilation) (2008)
- Mellow Beats, Friends, & Lovers (compilation) (2009)
- Modal Soul Classics II (tribute album) (2010)
- Spiritual State (2011; posthumous)
- Luv(sic) Hexalogy (2015; posthumous, with with Shing02)
Nujabes provides examples of the following tropes:
- Bittersweet Ending: Spiritual State concludes with "Island", one of Nujabes' most emotional songs, but the album as a whole qualifies considering it's the last full work of Nujabes' discography.
- His swan song, "Luv(sic) Grand Finale", is this as well for his career.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Averted; he was already acclaimed as an artist long before the accident, and his death didn't really gain him more publicity.
- Epic Rocking: "Peaceland" is his longest song, at 8:20. "Yes," "Horizon," "Kujaku," "Spiritual State," "World Without Words," "Gone Are the Days," and "World's End Rhapsody" are all over or close to six minutes long.
- Grand Finale: The sixth and final "Luv(sic)", aptly titled "Luv(sic) Grand Finale", which is the last beat we'll be hearing from Nujabes. Its angelic sound is more grandiose than any sound on any of his other albums.
- Gratuitous Panning: "Think Different" has Substantial performing a "The Reason You Suck" Rap, but also has another Substantial panned deep into the right responding to the different insults.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The "Luv(sic)" series, which was merely called "Luv(sic), Part 1", "Luv(sic), Part 2", and so on up until the concluding part six.
- A case of idiosyncratic album naming; the first and second Hydeout Productions collections.
- Lampshade Hanging: In the final repetition of the chorus in "Think Different", Substantial repeats the question "Is the glass half full or half empty?", which is part of the chorus. Another Substantial panned to the right says, "STOP ASKING ME THAT."
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Nujabes collaborated with numerous performers on his albums: Substantial, Pase Rock, Shing02, Cise Starr, Fat Jon and many, many others.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly / Genre-Busting: While his music is usually categorized as hip hop/instrumental hip hop, his style is actually pretty unique, combining the genre with others like jazz, ambient, and downtempo.
- Once an Episode: "Substantial and Nujabes still doin' this" is a staple intro when Substantial guests on a song. The final vocal song on the posthumous album, Spiritual State, appends "and it's infinite" to that sentence.
- Posthumous Collaboration: Subverted with parts 4 and 5 of the "Luv(sic)" series: while they were released posthumously, they were completed when Nujabes was still alive. Played straight with part 6 of the "Luv(sic)" series & the track "Perfect Circle", as they were completed and released by Shing02 (with the blessings of Nujabes' label, Hydeout Productions) from unfinished beats found on Nujabes' computer and phone after his death (However, the beat found for "Luv(sic)" Grand Finale was already intended to be the last "Luv(sic)" song). Fellow Nujabes collaborator Uyama Hiroto was responsible for helping finish the instrumentals for "Luv(sic) Grand Finale" , as it wasn't fully finished before Nujabes died. "Perfect Circle", on the other hand, was a lost beat that Nujabes gave Shing02 in 2004, and the latter had finished writing the song but didn't record vocals for it until a decade later.
- Pun-Based Title: "Luv(sic)", as explained by Shing02:"(sic) = The Latin adverb sic meaning "intentionally so written" is used for misspelled words. In this case, Love = Luv, thus Lovesick = Luv(sic)"
- Rearrange the Song:
- "Shiki no Uta" is like a quieter, less percussion-driven rendition of "Beat Laments the World".
- "Mystline" is a softer version of the instrumental to the "Latitude" remix on Metaphorical Music.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Think Different" features the rapper Substantial giving one to an unknown person represented by another version of Substantial.
- Sdrawkcab Name: Seba Jun to Nujabes.
- Shout-Out: "Feather" mentions Of Mice & Men, Flowers for Algernon, Chinua Achebe's Arrow of God, and Rambo, and also quotes "American Pie" in its final lines.
- Trans-Pacific Equivalent: Nujabes and J Dilla are scarily similar in more than just their music:
- Both were born on the same day and year (February 7, 1974).
- Both got their starts in the mid-Nineties.
- Both men were acclaimed for their experimental and often soulful styles of hip hop.
- They've collaborated with many rap artists worldwide.
- Both of them had unfinished albums at the time of their deaths (Spiritual State for Nujabes, and The Shining for Dilla)
- And both died before their time and after their birthday. Though Dilla succumbed to his health problems three days after his 32nd birthday, while Nujabes would live on for four more years until dying in a car accident 19 days after his 36th birthday.