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776: Yoko Ono
775: Boredoms
772: Kurofunedan
768: Merzbow
766: Oshiripenpenz
765: YMCK
763: Shizuka Kudo
762: Mo’some Tonebender
761: Soil & “Pimp” Sessions
756: Tokyo Conflux 2008
754: Ed Woods
753: 8otto
751: Para
750: Fuji Rock Festival 2008
748: Katan Hiviya
745: Who the Bitch
742: Low IQ 01
740: Shake Forward!
738: iLL
736: Tobu Ongakusai
733: Yanokami
731: One Night in Naha
729: Shugo Tokumaru
727: Japan Nite
725: Getting out the vote
723: J-Melo
721: Electric Eel Shock
717: GO!GO!7188
715: Yura Yura Teikoku
712: Midori
710: Seigen Ono
708: Wrench
707: Shinichi Osawa
704: M-flo
701: Freesscape
699: Versailles
698: Fuji Rock Festival 2007
697: Uri Nakayama
695: UA
693: Shonen Knife
690: Kemuri
689: Ikochi
686: Best Japanese Albums
684: Monkey Majik
682: Shibusashirazu Orchestra
681: Jon Lynch and Juice magazine
677: DJ Kentaro
675: Sadistic Mikaela Band
673: Osaka Monaurail
672: Teriyaki Boyz featuring Kanye West
666: Oki
662: Amanojaku
659: Polysics
657: Oceanlane
655: Cornelius
651: Bomb Factory
642: Soul Flower Mononoke Summit
640: African JAG
637: Buffalo Daughter
635: Ryukyu Underground
633: Mazri no Matsuri
631: Mono
629: Coldfeet
628: Crystal Kay
625: J-pop goes def
623: Ken Yokoyama
621: Zazen Boys
619: Monday Michiru
613: PE’Z
611: Afrirampo
609: Sherbets
603: Double Famous
601: Meltone
599: Michiyo Yagi
597: Hifana
594: Guitar Wolf
592: Rip Slyme
590: Little Creatures
588: Bliss Out on Hougaku
586: Hoppy Kamiyama
584: Bliss Out on Hougaku
582: Mazri no Matsuri
580: Mari Natsuki
575: Towa Tei
573: The Beautiful Losers
571: Fantastic Plastic Machine
569: Nippop
567: Brahman
560: Shonen Knife
558: Nice Guy Jin
556: Toru Yonaha and Kinohachi
554: Hiromi Uehara
551: Nicotine
549: Ego-Wrappin'
545: Eastern Youth
538: Inside tracks
536: Outside the Box
534: Rainbow Warrior
529: Breaking the mold
527: Sadao China
524: The sound of cyberpunk
522: Ryuichi Sakamoto's Chasm
516: Ken Yokoyama
514: Jan Linton
512: Jazz messengers
509/10: Naoko Terai
507: Akiko Yano
504: Kotaro Oshio: Solo Strings
502: Refurbished rhythms
494: Resonance
492: cyber-swordsmen
490: Loop Junktion
488: Ryukyu Underground: Okinawan Odyssey
484: Gocoo: Reinventing taiko
481: Leonard Eto
479: Gaijin à Go-Go
477: Enemy music
475: Yoriko Ganeko with Chuei Yoshikawa
472: DJ Kaori
469: Yuki
467: Wrench
464: Young and swingin
462: Jazzy Live 2003 from Blue Breath
460: Shonen Knife
457/458: Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden
456: Yuka Kamebuchi & The Voices of Japan
454: Jude
452: Kokoo
451: BBQ Chickens
449: Man and the machinery
446: Crystal Kay
443: Lava
440: Jazz on Leave
437: Rip Slyme
434: Boom Boom Satellites
432: "Rambling" Steve Gardner
430: Dry & Heavy
428: The Birth of OE
426: Anmitsu
424: Happy Kamiyam
422: Shing02
420: Supercar
418: Ryuichi Sakamoto
416: Kick The Can Crew
414: King Brothers
412: Kazufumi Miyazawa
410: Japanese Independent Music
408: The Yoshida Brothers
406: Love Psychedelico
393: Mikidozan
391: Shelter 10th Anniversary
389: The beautiful losers
387: Junpei Shiina
383: Umekuichi
381: P'ez
379: Boredoms
377: Dai Sakakibara
375: Dreams Come True
373: eX-Girl
370: Pizzicato Five
368: Dub Squad
366: Buffalo Daughter
364: Phew Phew L!ve
362: Fumio Yasuda
360: Boom Boom Satellites
358: Kei Kobayashi
356: Cool Drive Makers
354: Bird
351: United Future Organization
349: Audio Active
347: Ondekoza
345: Misia
343: Brahman
341: Puffy
339: Ryukyu Festival 2000
337: Rappagariya
335: Lisa Ono
333: Air Jam 2000
331: Feed
327: Tenkoo Orchestra
325: Wrench
323: Sadao Watanabe
321: Dry & Heavy
319: Bonny Pink
317: Sakura Hills Disco 3000
315: Aco
313: Rovo
311: The Mad Capsule Markets
309: Coldfeet

Loop Junktion

If you haven't turned on your radio or tuned into MTV recently, here's the news: hip-hop rules. Japan is being increasingly overrun by a legion of Jay-Z and Beyonce wannabes. Case in point: even former J-pop idoru Namie Amuro is now making hip-hop.

But amid the swaggering B-boys are some groups concocting a more thoughtful, musically rich recipe of Japanese hip-hop. Loop Junktion, still based in their hometown of Machida in suburban Tokyo-but making increasing inroads into Tokyo as well as further afield-are cooking a rich stew that blends the spoken-word narratives of hip-hop with funk, acid jazz, and a healthy dollop of style.

Don't let the musical accomplishment and the fact that the band was formed by Japanese students attending Boston's famed Berklee College of Music give you the wrong impression, however. Loop Junktion probably have more street cred than most of the Japanese B-boys you see striking ape-like gansta poses on MTV.

In the song "History" from their new album Turkey, for instance, MC "Yamajin" tells the story of the difficulties of trying to make it outside the Japanese mainstream. "I was making music at the time but not making enough to get by," he says in an interview at Sony Records. "So I turned to crime to make ends meet." The song depicts the lure many young Japanese men without privilege face of becoming a chimpira, or petty criminal.

"In the first verse I describe getting busted," Yamajin continues. "In the second verse, I talk about friends from my 'hood who helped me out, and in the third verse I describe how things ended up working out with this band." The gangly, raspy-voiced MC doesn't boast about his theft convictions, but he does insist that his words resonate with young Japanese disillusioned by a lack of opportunity in an economy in which the jobless rate for men age 15 to 24 now stands at over 12 percent.

"I'm now 26," says Yamajin. "As you move out of your teenage years to adulthood, even if you aren't arrested, you undergo various difficult experiences: fighting with your parents and friends…things don't always go as you'd like. I think people can relate to what I'm saying from this point of view."

From the other side of the conference table, keyboardist "" concurs. "For American rappers, getting busted seems almost like a rite of passage," he says. "I'm not sure if this is good or bad-but these experiences are part of the reality of hip-hop."

If a career in hip-hop seems unlikely to please many parents in the US, one can imagine how it must be in hierarchical Japan. Yamajin confirms that this is the case. "When I got to be about 23 or so, they began to say it's time to get a job," he says of his parents. "But when the band signed with Sony, we began to get along better. Having a contract with a well-known company makes us more respectable. Because of that, my parents were able to feel like, 'Well, he wasn't just messing around, but really trying to do something.' Until then they were like: 'What are you going to do?'"

With a sophisticated, urban sound that sets them apart from the somewhat comedic approach of mainstream Japanese hip-hop groups like Ripslyme or the bling-bling bluster of MCs such as Zeebra, Loop Junktion, says, find themselves appealing more to the acid jazz, house and drum 'n' bass communities of Tokyo's fertile dance scene. He says that after forming, they played relentlessly to establish themselves but are now gigging more selectively.

"We've developed gradually, and want to continue with this approach," he concludes. "We want to be in this business for a long time."

History is available on Mastersix Foundation/Sony Records. Loop Junktion host gBack to the Labh the second Friday of the month at Club Asia in Shibuya. The next event is September 12. Tel: 5458-1996. Total info:

Photo credit: Courtesy of Mastersix Foundation/Sony Records