DJ Kentaro - Enter
DJ Kentaro - Enter
(CD/2xLP) Ninja Tune ZEN128/ZENCD128, 2007-04-23
01. Enter Newground 2:23
02. Keep On feat. The Pharcyde 3:52
03. Free feat. MC Spank Rock 3:20
04. Tasogare Highway High (Bass wanna be a singer) 3:45
05. Rainy Day feat. New Flesh 4:45
06. Uminnaka 0:54
07. Handmade Gift feat. Little Tempo 4:36
08. Space Jungle feat. MC Spank Rock, Ronnie Darko, Chris Rockswell and Armani XXXChange 4:32
09. Nursery Room 0:41
10. Harvest Dance feat. Hifana 3:22
11. Trust 4:49
12. One Hand Blizzard 2:22
13. Brightin' Star 0:48
14. Let It Go feat. Fat Jon 4:52
15. Hatsuyume feat. Hunger 4:05
16. Grateful To You 2:17
CD Promo Artwork:
Track by track commentaries and liner notes
1. Enter The Newground
Not underground, not overground but newground - opening track of the album that expresses the theme of '4 seasons' which is prevalent throughout the album. The 'EN' in 'ENTER' has the japanese meaning of 'circle' or 'full circle' and the significance of this is also portrayed in the track. When opening the doors of this album, this is the scenery that you first see and there you see the images of fire from the 'Donto Festival' that takes place every January in Kentaro's hometown Sendai, the sounds of which are expressed through turntable noise.
2. Keep On
The basis of Kentaro's hip-hop came from early 90s US hip-hop and one of the monumental groups that define the era is The Pharcyde. This collaboration came about after they met when he opened for them in 2003 when The Pharcyde played Yokohama, next to Tokyo, in Japan. The 'break the wall' in the hook exemplifies their stance of moving forward together and breaking down any walls that stand in their way - the use of Japanese in 'SIKI on the beat' in the chorus (SIKI meaning the four seasons) will also have japanese listeners grinning.
This track features MC Spank Rock aka Naeem, from Spank Rock on the renown Ninja Tune sub-label Big Dada. dj KENTARO and Spank Rock stood on the same stage at the 2006 ZEN TV show in Tokyo and when Spank Rock returned to Japan, they made time to visit Kentaro at his studio and record this tune. The rough-edged bounce of the track itself expresses the theme of 'freedom' and this is also the first 12" lead track from the album - the video features Kentaro leading the revolt from his underground lab in winning back the rights to use vinyl in an imaginary world where an evil dictator imposes a 'vinyl prohibition' on the world.
4. Tasogare Highway High (Bass wanna be a singer)
As in the title, the image of this instrumental track comes from driving into the sunset on a neverending highway and as the sub-title says, the star of the track is the bassline. Kentaro says, 'I want people to listen to this when they're driving down the highway..'. This track is also featured on the B-side of the single 12" and also has a video in the making.
5. Rainy Day
UK veteran hip-hop acts, also on the Big Dada label, New Flesh are featured on this track and Kentaro met them whilst on tour in Europe with them. All the recording was done in London and the bassline came to Kentaro on a rainy day as he was leaving Japan for Europe - having rainy London artists New Flesh on the track accentuated the image of rain on the track.
From rainy climates, into the sunny seas - uminnaka literally means 'in the sea' - the image of the song coming to him as he was obtaining his scuba diving license in the emerald green seas of Thailand. Kentaro also uses sounds recorded underwater in the production of the tune.
7. Handmade Gift
Out of the water into bright blue skies - the track starts off with the scratch of a dry guitar cut. Collaborating with Japanese seminal dub/reggae band Little Tempo, which has members old enough to be Kentaro's dad, came to be when they played on the same stage at an outdoor festival in Kochi prefecture, Japan in the summer of 2005 and since then, have jammed together on numerous occasions. For this track, Kentaro sampled Little Tempo playing the track, scratched and pasted the parts and created a whole new 'handmade' track.
8. Space Jungle
This track features MC Spank Rock, producer Armani XXXchange, and live DJs Ronnie Darko and Chris Rockswell from the Spank Rock crew. This is the first time the whole crew came together on a track and on this galactic banger, all 4 crew members get on the mic. Check how the beat switches up towards the end of the song.
9. Nursery Room
Humourous skit depicting 3 slightly strange adults walking into a kindergarden and lecturing the kids - made from putting together voice samples taken during the recording of Harvest Dance. A coincidental offspring from the recording session.
10. Harvest Dance
A track overflowing with originality conceived using percussion played by Japanese MPC/turntable duo Hifana and samples of a flute played by Kentaro himself. The 'harvest' brings up the seasonal theme of the album once again. The vocal sample used meaning 'Do we seem unique? To us, this is natural' characterises both Hifana and Kentaro's stance in what they do - the panned guitar juggle at the end adds to the original feel of the track.
A drum'n'bass tune shaped around a core belief in self and in the world - trust. If you have ever experienced Kentaro DJ live, no doubt you will have seen him cut this up to cater to the dancefloor - making crowds look like they are about to burst.
12. One Hand Blizzard
The beat is made from Kentaro scratching the drums with one hand, gradually switching the rhythms into a swirling blizzard of drums. The image connected to the track is of a frozen Sendai, back in the day when Kentaro was at junior high school working part-time as a newspaper boy - he turns the corner on his bike and slips, sending all his newspapers flying into the air, while he sits there... speechless.
13. Brightin' Star
After his accident, he finds himself unconsciously walking towards his snowed in school. When he gets to the school yard, he looks up finding millions of bright shinin' stars - the boy finds courage in the stars and decides keep his head high and continue on his road forward.
14. Let It Go
Leader of the Cincinatti hip-hop crew Five Deez and receiving just as much, if not more, praise for his solo works, producer/MC, Fat Jon features on this track. Kentaro and Fat Jon met when Kentaro opened for Five Deez at their show in his hometown of Sendai and since then have kept in touch - this collaboration 'finally becoming a reality' as Kentaro puts it. This track showcases the two of them letting their creative freedoms go and comes with a theme of communicating with audiences the world over. The Brightin' Star melody comes back at the end.
When thinking of which Japanese MC to work with on this album, Kentaro says, 'there was absolutely no question who...' and this tune features Sendai comrade MC Hunger from the hip-hop group Gagle. The two know each other from junior high, high school days and this is a track that characterises their respective quests along the 'truly untouched road' up until now...and into the future. The intro finds them asleep, then woken up by a mobile ringtone - which then takes them onto a live stage inside their dreams. Both born in January and both starting their quest to the heights of hip-hop in about 95, there are bits of classic mid 90s hip-hop tracks also hidden in the track.
16. Grateful To You
dj KENTARO says, 'To be honest, when I came to the end of it, I had nothing but the feeling of gratitude..'. This is the sentiment behind this last tune. High tones, combined with shout outs sprinkled over the track and from the left you can hear Kentaro's own voice expressing his gratitude. At the end, it comes full circle and the newground begins again -
Press Release :
On April 23 2007, Ninja Tune and Beat Records will release 'ENTER' the first debut studio album from Japan's finest turntablist, dj KENTARO. Just as the 2002 DMC World Finals proved to be a new start for the world champion DJ, this album will undoubtedly prove to also be a new start for dj KENTARO, the recording artist.
The world first heard Kentaro's name at the 2002 DMC/Technics World DJ Championship Final in September 2002 when he became the first ever Asian World Champion of the renown DJ competition.
Persuaded by Mr.Ozaki of DMC Japan who assured me Kentaro would win the championships, I followed Kentaro there and witnessed the historic moment. It was a total landslide victory - out of the 16 judges on the panel, 15 picked Kentaro as champ and the difference in points between him and second place was a double score, a feat very rarely achieved in the close cut world of turntablism. The routine that won it has been eternally engrained in my eyes and ears, as is the sound of the excitement from the crowd there that night.
In that routine, he displayed a four-part structure - one often used in ancient poetry of introduction, development, turn and conclusion - in which he skillfully jumped between hip-hop, house, reggae, rock, expressing the ever present message in his career of 'No Walls Between the Music'. At the time in the battle DJ scene, fancy ideas and tricky gimmicks were the order of the day and there was little emphasis on musicality. What Kentaro's routine did was disregard all these trappings of the times and counter the trend with both musicality and skill, resulting in him being awarded the much coveted champion belt.
'89 world champion Cutmaster Swift said about Kentaro, 'He brought the wind back in turntablism and he's taken it to the next level as music'. As these words imply, his routine was one that changed many things for him and those after him - for him, he not only became the first ever Asian champion of the competition, he was now in the league of champions, alongside turntable giants such as Roc Raida, Q-Bert, A-Trak and Craze.
After taking the world as a battle DJ, dj KENTARO continued to expand his methods of expression through the turntables - after winning the title, in the summer of 2003 he performed at both the Fuji Rock and Metamorphose festivals and that led on to his first tour of Europe. As he proved with his world dominating routine, his exceptional grasp of a wide range of music led to crowds and critics showering him with praise and to date, he has toured Europe 6 times, footage of which was included in the dj KENTARO DVD 'National Geoscratch', released in 2005. Outside of Europe he has toured the world extensively, from Jamaica to China, Korea, Taiwan to New Zealand - and the list keeps going.
Under a different name and a different musical persona, he also DJs as 'KEM DJ' - the name KEM coming from the japanese for 'kemuri' meaning smoke - playing, as the name goes, a smokey set of beats carefully picked for the occasion. This and his numerous collaborations with other artists/bands (including sessions with a japanese 3-string guitar, shamisen, player) showcases his development from being just a turntablist to a musician, naturally progressing on to the production of his own original works.
Though going back in time a bit, it is worth mentioning his production works preceding this debut album, 'ENTER' - in 2002 he featured on a track on his hometown comrades (both hailing from Sendai) japanese hip-hop trio Gagle's album, '3 Men On Wax' where he created a track strictly using the turntable called 'Duruchiki Hour'. He also featured on MPC-wielding duo, Hifana's album 'Fresh Push Breakin'' in 2003. In 2005 he also co-produced a track with Gagle producer Mitsu The Beats called 'Cannon Baller' which was released on a compilation, 'Mess-Age presents Rap Sound Burger'.
While honing his production skills he was approached by Ninja Tune to mix the next release in the Solid Steel series using tunes from the label - the result was 'Solid Steel presents DJ Kentaro : On The Wheels Of Solid Steel' which started with an original track from Kentaro himself. The CD was released in Japan in late 2004, and later released worldwide, to extraordinary critical acclaim. The next step for him was to remix Ninja Tune dons, Coldcut's first single from their new album, 'Everything's Under Control'. Then in the spring of 2006, he announced his signing as an artist to Ninja Tune.
Ninja Tune was set up in 1990 by Coldcut and is widely known as one of the best dance music record labels in the world releasing music from artists in UK, US, all Europe, as well as having close ties with Japan all of a consistently high quality. The perfect match between Kentaro's turntablist skills combined with his wide ranged musicality and NInja Tune is one that is obvious to anyone. Kentaro himself says 'I can't think of any other label I'd like to release from..it's definitely one of my favourite labels'.
Hip-hop, breakbeats, reggae, drum'n'bass, electronica...the sounds packed into this first full-length studio album shouldn't surprise those who know what to expect from dj KENTARO but even when looking at the broad spectrum of dance music in current you'd be pressed to find an album more balanced in all directions, crossing over musical boundaries without sounding forced. It is exactly the message expressed at the 2002 DMC finals of 'No Walls Between The Music' all concentrated and materialised into one album, and the collaborations on the record add to the expanse of 'ENTER' -
All the artists featured on the album are artists Kentaro has played with in the numerous events, live shows and tours he has performed at over the years and the hand-picked lineup is bound to bring a grin to many faces. One of the acts responsible for the new school movement in hip-hop in the 90s and still going strong today, Pharcyde. The Baltimore bred group on everyone's lips after releasing their debut album 'YoYoYoYoYo' from Ninja sub-label Big Dada in 2006, Spank Rock. Veterans in the UK hip-hop scene after releasing 3 albums also on Big Dada, New Flesh. Leader of the Cincinatti hip-hop crew Five Deez and receiving just as much, if not more, praise for his solo works, producer/MC, Fat Jon. Having such respected and skilled artists from around the world on one record is in itself a delight but the way all 4 artists ride and harmoniously fit dj KENTARO's sound is a ride in itself.
On the japanese side are 3 sets of artists all with strong ties to Kentaro - while always laying their roots in the reggae/dub scene a band that continues to expand its horizons musically, Little Tempo. Creating a genre themselves by doing what they do with an MPC and a turntable before anyone else in the world, now on their way to becoming world renown, Hifana. The MC with the most original and absorbing style Japan has to offer, Hunger from the hip-hop group Gagle. While all 3 tracks are of a totally different nature, Kentaro manages to give them all a certain touch that makes them distinctively a similar colour. As a fellow japanese, I can't help but be happy that their sound will now be known to the world through Ninja Tune.
But it's not only the tracks with guest vocalists that make up the album - the instrumental tracks on the album are just as, if not more, expressive of Kentaro's musically liberated nature and they can be said to be the driving force of 'ENTER'. Each track was carefully crafted to stir the imagination, and the length to which they show the richness of Kentaro's expression will without a doubt leave a lasting impression on everyone that comes across it. Most of the tracks were also mixed by dj KENTARO himself (half were done together with Alan Mawdsley, a mix engineer that mixes many of Ninja Tune artists) and his acute sound sensibility is also an aspect to check on the album.
How much influence will 'ENTER' have on the dance music scene the world over? And how will that influence reflect back to dj KENTARO? Questions I ask myself like this only make me restless waiting for the release date..2007, the year that will always be remembered as the year dj KENTARO entered your world -
by Kiwamu Omae