Hip-Hop has come along way from the street corners and community centres of late 70’s South Brooklyn and whilst musically it still holds on to the same beats and rhythms, raps and rhymes as it has travelled through time and across the world from its difficult birth on those tough streets it has in turn continued to evolve. Like all music bends and bows to other cultures, other sounds, other fashion and the hip-hop of today is a varied and mercurial beast.
Fat Panda Tuan and the Shinobi Tempura is a classic example of the growth of the genre taking in elements as disparate and diverse as Japanese culture, ambient alt-pop, rap, urban dance, found sounds taken from film and media as well as the more expected rapped lyrics and poetic flow. It is not only the best of old school influences and new generic explorations, it is also a deft blend of east and west, of orient and occident, intricacy and directness, the profound and the profane.
Revelling in the past is all very well and good but the best music, or at least the most original, seems to be made as people move things forward. It’s all about evolution, it’s about forward-thinking, it is the way the world turns and Shinobi Tempura is the sound of the world not only turning but shrinking as cultures collide and new music is forged from the heat of these interactions. Fat Panda Tuan pulls together various urban strands, skittering trap beats, hip-hop rhythms , cool rap flows and strange and glitchy electro-groove musical motifs and even a few sultry R&B tones and smooth, late night smokey vibes as well as the references and explorations of Japanese culture.
Ocean View has a really chilled, ambient feel, sun drenched and sassy, effortlessly cool and ultra hip, whilst Ricky The Ruler is built from brooding drama and staccato rhymes. Hulu is an intense blast of word play and Erykah Badu is a confident and groovesome opening salvo.
It’s an album that tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward, a post-urban style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations. Ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, trap, electronic music or any other genre should be about.
And it is this addictive combination of hypnotic vocal delivery and trippy accessibility which really moves the ball forward, breaks out of the comfort zones and offers a new take on an old sound. It is the perfect eulogy for the streets, the hustle, the hassle, the grime and the game, it plays to stereotypical images but it drips with dark reality. If ever rap music spoke of the lives and aspirations of the young urban experience, this is where it is said most eloquently in raps own first language.