Album cover Root Is The New Leaf - Kaigen21Meiso
Root Is The New LeafKaigen21Meiso7/10

Kaigen21Meiso - Root Is The New Leaf

10 Mar 2010 macron1

The work of Kaigen first crossed the desks of Sardless Enterprises (Ltd.) following his appearance on Curse ov Dialects most excellent Crisis Tales (8/10), where he guested on tracks "Draindrops" and "Colossus". These were both standout tracks on the album, featuring Kaigen's lyricism in all Japanese, unique for what was essentially an Australian hip hop album.

This time it is Kaigen's turn to take the fore with the release of Root Is The New Leaf, produced with Honolulu-based Japanese emcee Meiso as the collaborative side project Kaigen21Meiso. For Root Is The New Leaf, Kaigen and Meiso have sought the production skills of Sole (Anticon), Omid, K-The-I??? and Curse ov Dialect, amongst others, with mixing from DJ Paso Bionic (of Curse ov Dialect). The end result is a unique mix of abstract post hip hop that is not only clever but highly listenable.

Sonically, Root Is The New Leaf tends toward the experimental side of the hip hop spectrum, with the stand out track "無迷 / Lost And Found" (produced by Sole) featuring several unconventional vocal effects lending a disorienting quality to the track, which is in turn reinforced by the dreamy chanted intro loop that reappears throughout the track. Another Sole produced track, "メトロノームの牢獄 / Metro-No-Man's Land," also features unusual vocal arrangements, at times looping the same vocalist on top of themselves to produce a discordant mix that somehow works. There are also a couple of instrumental tracks thrown in the mix, "移り気な陽炎 / Whimsical Heat Haze" and "夕涼み / Cool Summer Dusk," the latter closing out the album before the bonus remix tracks, while the former almost serves as an intermission before the album takes on a darker tone in the later stages of the album.

The influence of the collaborative efforts on the album are strong in their respective tracks. Curse ov Dialect appear on the track "すばらしい小世界 / Brave Small World," bringing their trademark use of a billion obscure samples which can be heard behind several emcees, at times interestingly mixing Japanese rhyming with English in one of two tracks to feature the lingua franca (the other being "Metro-No-Man's Land"). "俗物社会貢献賞 / Man Ov The Year" features trademark Omid characteristics and is reminiscent of material that appeared that Sach 5th Ave album.

Given the large amount of Japanese spoken on the album and this reviewers lack of requisite lingual skills, it is not really possible to comment on the lyrical content per se. Past tooling about with Google's translation service for the lyrics for "Draindrops" for example revealed subject matter along the lines of bard of the currency and financial sector distant galaxy, which due to the nature of the Google translation may or may not have been entirely accurate. This still serves to point the direction which the lyrics take, which Kaigen himself describes as deep… like the Poseidon Adventure. As Method Man would say.

The delivery style of Kaigen and Meiso are contrasting, with Kaigen guttural and aggressive, while Meiso is much more a laid back style which works as a counterbalance in places. Overall, the vocals are delivered at a fairly frenetic pace, reminiscent of the likes of Busdriver in terms of the breakneck rate with which they are delivered in tracks such as "Root is the New Leaf" and "Brave Small World," while the slower beats of "Metro-No-Man's Land" and "時計仕掛けの蓮 / Clockwork Lotus" give these tracks the feeling that they are slowing down somewhat, however the lyrics are still laid on fairly thick and fast. Indeed, both "Metro-No-Man's Land" and "Clockwork Lotus" appear in the second "half" of the album, where things become perhaps darker and more menacing in contrast to the comparatively upbeat vibe of the earlier half of the album.

Root is the New Leaf is a solid effort, pushing the boundaries of hip hop with its experimental sound without alienating potential new listeners, and serves as a useful starting point for exploring Japanese avant hip hop.

Sardless Tracks

  • Lost
  • FoundBrave Small World=Whimsical Heat Haze

Track Listing

  1. Root Is The New Leaf
  2. Lost And Found
  3. Man Ov The Year
  4. Brave Small World
  5. Whimsical Heat Haze
  6. Metro-No-Mans Land
  7. Clockwork Lotus
  8. Original Gaian
  9. Cool Summer Dusk
  10. Root Is The New Leaf (DJ Old Fashion Remix)
  11. Lost And Found (Mihara Remix)
  12. Brave Small World (Nejel Remix)