A glimpse of Seba Jun, aka Nujabes: 1974-2010
April 3, 2010 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Seba Jun, aka Nujabes, was a quiet and rather reclusive Japanese hip-hop DJ/producer/label head, as far as hip-hop personalities go. He didn't do many interviews, and his two albums and 15 or so vinyl singles which were released on his own Hydeout Productions label, all of which were only released in Japan. Regardless of the limited push, he gained renown world-wide for his relaxed, jazzy hip-hop, due in part to his music being featured on the anime series Samurai Champloo. The musician's life was cut short in late February, following a car accident. He was 36 years old.

Hydeout Productions is a young label, with the first tracks being released in 2001. Along with Seba Jun's own productions, the label has presented UK rapper Funky DL, Japanese musicians Uyama Hiroto, MINMI, Shing02, and US artists CYNE, Apani B, Five Deez, Substantial, Pase Rock and CL Smooth. Though largely vinyl-based, the label released a few albums starting in 2005 or so, and two collections of tracks previously limited to vinyl. Nujabes has also released a CD of inspirations for his album Modal Soul, entitled Modal Soul Classics. In this same vein, the artist Alys made a mix of tracks Nujabes sampled, entitled Modal Source.

The music of Nujabes and other hip-hop artists played a major role in the anime series Samurai Champloo, which is set in a world full of anachronisms, blending elements of hip-hop culture into Edo period Japan. The mash-up of styles is similar to director Shinichirō Watanabe's prior series, Cowboy Bebop (prev), though the earlier series blended space travel, westerns and 1940s-60s jazz. The hip-hop/samurai blend of Samurai Champloo ran for 26 episode, and the series premiered in Japan on May 20, 2004, and an English dub of the series premiered in the United States on the Adult Swim anime block on May 14, 2005. Since then, the series has also aired in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Germany. You can catch it streaming online, available both subbed and dubbed. Every episode opened with "Battlecry", an edited version of the track by Nujabes and Shing02. The music for the show by Nujabes and others was collected in four CDs (Impression, Playlist, Masta and Departure) for release in Japan, and boiled down to one CD for the US.

Besides these works, Nujabes made at least three mixtapes: Sweet Sticky Things, for the fans of slower love songs (YT split: Side A parts 1b, 2, 3 (missing), 4 and 5; Side B parts 1, 2 (muted), 3, 4 and 5) the Ristorante Nujabes Mixtape (YT Split: Side A parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; Side B parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5), and Hyde Out Sound Lab mixtape with DJ RYOW (of ShinSight Trio).

Following the passing of Seba Jun, Pase Rock, Shing02, and others (Google translation) left kind parting words, some reflecting on a similar loss in the hip-hop world with the death of James Dewitt Yancey, aka J Dilla, four years earlier.

A few tributes and mixes:
* Shing02 & DJ Top Bill - "Luv(sic)" & "Luv(sic) pt.2" live, which is an edited version of footage from the Geshi Fest 2005
* Nujabes and Shing02 - "Luv(sic) pt. 3 [extended]" (still pictures with lyrics in the notes)
* Tribute mini-mix: live intro to Nujabes, and the tracks Reflection Eternal, Voice of Autumn, Worlds End Rhapsody, and Horizon
* Tribute medley, played on keyboard and drums, covering Feather, Reflection Eternal, and Counting Stars, then into one of their own pieces

Original sample sources and the Nujabes tracks (more listed in this forum thread):
* Luiz Bonfa - The Shade of the Mango Tree, sampled and altered for Nujabes ft. Cise Starr - Lady Brown
* Ivan Lins - Qualquer Dia , source of Nujabes ft. Shing02 - Luv(Sic) Pt.2
* Ahmad Jamal - Spartacus love theme, sampled for Nujabes feat. Substantial - Eclipse
* (cover of) John Hicks - After The Morning, sampled in Nujabes - Flowers
* Ayur - I Miss You, sampled in Nujabes - Reflection Eternal (video)
* Quadraphonics - Betcha If You Check It Out , sampled in Nujabes - Worlds End Rhapsody
posted by filthy light thief (27 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:33 PM on April 3, 2010

posted by mds35 at 8:40 PM on April 3, 2010

Awesome post! I love Nujabes, and was so shocked to hear he died. Thank you so much for this.
posted by misozaki at 8:45 PM on April 3, 2010

I've heard of Nujabes for some while, and somehow stumbled across the news that he had died. It made me sad in a way that I haven't felt for other artists who've passed before their time. I'm sad I didn't make this post before he died, because it's always depressing to find a great musician only to learn there won't be anything new from them in the future.

Hydeout have some tracks he was working on, and Shing02 was collaborating on the next parts of Luv(sic), so there are some new tracks for his legacy, but it's not the same.

His last track released under his own name (at least as listed on Discogs) was an upbeat track called Thank You (sampling Gypsy - Gypsy Queen Part 2). An odd final note, though not by design, of course.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:25 PM on April 3, 2010

posted by Iridic at 9:53 PM on April 3, 2010

A fitting tribute. Thanks for this.
posted by chrominance at 10:35 PM on April 3, 2010

Thank you so much for this. I'd read a brief about the accident but had been previously unexposed to his work, and the article hadn't linked to anything. Really incredible stuff.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:29 PM on April 3, 2010

posted by juv3nal at 11:46 PM on April 3, 2010

Incredible artist. I love his work even thought I tend to dislike the genre.

posted by Chan at 11:51 PM on April 3, 2010


Heard about this a couple of weeks ago. I loved/love Luv(sic) pt.2.

Gone too soon.
posted by Xere at 12:14 AM on April 4, 2010


What an artist. He created some of the most interesting tracks for Samurai Champloo and really helped open my teenage mind to hip-hop's musical possibilities back when I first watched the series with my dormmates. I've spent many a rainy day hour studying to his steady fine beats. Hydeout Productions 2nd Collection is especially fantastic, by the way - Old Light and Sky is Falling are excellent examples of how he fused different genres together. It's a shame that Nujabes' work isn't more widespread (or easier to find outside of Japan). I'm glad to see this great post give him more exposure.

Also, I've always liked that his pseudonym is his real name spelled backwards.
posted by cobwebberies at 12:23 AM on April 4, 2010

I love Nujabes! I discovered him through MetaFilter, in fact through one of your comments, filthy light thief. What sad news to wake up to!
posted by Kattullus at 1:38 AM on April 4, 2010

Oh no! I had no idea Nujabes was dead. But this is a fantastic post, thank you. His work really transcended a lot of arbitrary genre boundaries and deserves as much appreciation as can be sent its way.
posted by Mizu at 1:59 AM on April 4, 2010

Thanks for putting this together, filthy light thief. Nujabes had a unique style, and it's sad that he won't continue to innovate. RIP.
posted by domnit at 4:52 AM on April 4, 2010

I didn't know he'd died - this post is a good tribute and I'll be coming back to it despite already having a big chunk of dude's music.

posted by jtron at 5:21 AM on April 4, 2010

Great, great post. I first heard his work on Samurai Champloo a few years ago (the whole run is free on youtube, btw). This is the first I hear of his death.

posted by joedan at 11:30 AM on April 4, 2010


Thank you very much for this well-made post.

I read a blog post from Shing02 that I think demonstrates just how far removed from the limelight Nujabes placed himself. Apparently, Shing02 did not know Nujabes had died and had attempted to call him a few times, even passing by his house one time hoping to talk about upcoming projects. I guess it wasn't out of the ordinary for Nujabes to be reclusive like this, as Shing didn't know anything was wrong until he was told that Nujabes had died.

One blog commented on how if an artist passes away there are usually rumors that circulate prior to an official announcement from the family/label/press. In Nujabes case, there was were 0 rumors. Nobody knew he was dead until about a month after he passed away.

It is a testament to his musical prowess that despite his seemingly reclusive, out of the spotlight personality that he has worked with such a wide variety of collaborators, artists literally from all over the world. There is something about his music that instantly grabs anyone that listens to it. It is intimate and emotional. He blends samples and live instrumentation flawlessly.

His style has been a major influence on my own musical endeavors, and I was in shock when I heard the news of his passing. It pains me that we will not hear any more music from this genius.

RIP Nujabes

"Drifting away like a feather in air
Letting my soul take me away from the hurt and despair
So I'm keepin it vertical forever elevator
Ridin the escalator to the something that is greater"
posted by sputgop at 1:11 PM on April 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

God damn it. Nujabes was amazing.
posted by chunking express at 1:54 PM on April 4, 2010

posted by eddydamascene at 2:41 PM on April 4, 2010

sputgop, I think Seba Jun's family requested that things be kept private for a while. At least, that's how it sounds from Pase Rock: Out of respect for the privacy of his family the news isn’t breaking until today. I learned of his passing a little over a week ago. (posted 3/18/2010) The memorial ceremony was for family and close friends only. [Interesting side note: Nujabes added the "Rock" to Pase Rock's name on his first release, and it stuck.]
posted by filthy light thief at 2:59 PM on April 4, 2010

I have all the Samurai Champloo episodes and watch them often. I love the hip-hop in the shows. RIP man. Thanks for the beautiful beats.
posted by Flex1970 at 4:02 PM on April 4, 2010

posted by stringbean at 6:03 PM on April 4, 2010


That is a really beautiful post and fitting tribute, Filthy Light Thief. May all mefites putting together obit posts do so with such passion, sympathy, research and information.
posted by smoke at 9:31 PM on April 4, 2010

joedan, it's also available from other sources (as linked in the FPP), with subtitles or dubs. The subtitled version is a fansub of what looks to be the original TV series, with some nice bonus information for the non-Japanese audience. Not as high quality as the Funimation YT vids, nor as legit, but with more info, if you're into that kind of thing.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 PM on April 4, 2010

Wow. I didn't know he'd died. Thanks for this post flt.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:06 PM on April 4, 2010

Though I enjoyed doing the research, it was sad putting this together. I felt like he should be remembered for more than his work with the Samurai Champloo soundtrack, which is where he got most of his fame outside of Japan.

He also ran a couple record shops in the Shibuya, Tokyo: Tribe & Guinness Records, which were described four years ago as a jazz shop and a hip-hop store, one above the other. I don't know much more about him he seems to enjoy keeping quiet.

posted by filthy light thief at 10:19 PM on April 4, 2010

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