Exploring the Japanese Underground with DJ Ryow

Exploring the Japanese Underground with DJ Ryow

Due to length, contributions are indexed as follows:

DJ Ryow is an early collaborator with Jun, having extensive knowledge of the Japanese underground hip-hop scene and a firm grasp on DJing and the culture that comes with it.

With some of the most sought-after and rare mixtapes in the hip-hop game, often cassette-only, local-only releases, DJ Ryow’s music and expertise in his field makes him a seasoned veteran and revered figure within any Japanese hip-hop circle.

I reached out to Ryow in hopes that he’d contribute to this piece; he obliged, and was nice enough to even do the interview in English, his second language, and attach some pics as well.

You worked with Jun very early in his career; how did you two meet?

At that time, there was a record shop called Guinness Records. Through the shop manager I met Nujabes.

What was your first piece of work together?

The first work is a mixtape called Hydeout Sound Lab which I made with Jun, under his alias Nujabes. After that we released a project called Family.

Also, when I made a song called Re: Strain of Stars, Jun was offered to collaborate, but that didn’t happen, because another release was already decided by that time.
Volume 2 of 5 in the Family Series; arguably the the most rare to find in mint condition

You DJ’d with Jun at Hydeout Sound Labs. Give some insight and explain how that process went.

At that time, I was still doing UnsignedHype. Jun’s label, Hydeout Productions, was just created. He was still unknown at that time. I told them I would do my best, and was very interested, so I joined.

Could you explain how it was working with Jun?

Since there were no resident DJs on his label at that time, he had to make the songs which he was creating with the DJs themselves during artist tours, or as influencers who would play his work in the club before the release. It was like experimentally playing a song in a club, then participating in the work being produced, and finally listening to the song that was made while giving some constructive criticism.

Many people know Nujabes for his music. You know him as a friend. Could you explain your relationship with Jun?

We first met being musicians, and we went out for drinks, again and again. He loved cooking, so he used to cook homemade food.

After that sort of bond, when we listened to songs and exchanged opinions, we trusted each other more.

Who influenced your sound?

If we’re talking overseas [meaning the United States], then DJ Premier and Common. Locally, I’ve been most influenced by DJ Krush and DJ Kensei.

Originally I liked rock and was a big fan of the guitar, so I was shocked by hip-hop music being sample-heavy, eventually getting into composing and DJing.

How did you become interested in that initially?

Looking at DMC, and seeing how they bent sound to be an instrument. It was amazing, people like DJ Q-bert, DJ Babu, and others. From there, I was just practicing scratching and basic tricks.

I totally lost my guitar! [laughs]

What was your favorite memory of Jun?

He was making the second part of the Luv(Sic) series with Shingo, and he showed the track to me and asked:

“What do you think of this song? Please don’t hesitate to give me an opinion.”

At that time, I told him the bass on the track was a bit heavy. I could tell this made him very concerned, and a few years later, he referred to that song as “that one song that Ryow was saying had too much bass” in the studio. [laughs]

That song is known today as Luv(sic) Part 2.

What are your thoughts on Jun’s legacy?

It is a pity that he has left the journey [of life].

I don’t think that new songs will be released, but I think about what I myself could convey to future generations.

Pulling inspiration from past songs, while keeping track of what sort of evolution we saw in his sound, while he was here with us.
Japan, early 00's, when DJ Ryow worked with Jun; location is unknown