I’ve been sitting on this write-up for a while. It was written by our resident beatsmith Deci Daze a couple weeks ago, back when Killer Bee’s Otaku was still fresh. After he shared his thoughts, he looked to see what others had to say. Among the many posts, he found an Earmilk article in which blogger Wendel Genosa succinctly summarized Otaku as “an emotionally-driven collection of sentimental feels and crisp beats.” She said everything he wanted to say about the project and more, in fewer words. So we didn’t post the article.
But, I’ve been thinking about it since then. And, while redundant articles are often superfluous, I think this is an exception to that rule. Because Deci wrote the following before reading what others had to say, the parallels only serve to fortify the shared claims. Two separate writers came away from Otaku touting its nostalgia. Surely, then, Killer Bee didn’t create a record appealing to the childhoods of a select few. Instead, he delivered a relatively universally compatible time machine. I say relatively because I don’t imagine it inspiring much reminiscing in those outside the hip hop community. But that’s more of a “them problem.” So, without further blathering, here is what Deci Daze had to say about Killer Bee’s most recent beat tape, Otaku.
When this project hit our inbox I knew exactly what I wanted to say about it. I felt something immediately upon listening which Killer Bee’s description only re-enforced. I could wax poetic about the dreamy sampling or the overall vibe but, I want to focus more on where this project took me. And why I think that matters.
Otaku is an incredibly nostalgic project to me. It acknowledges its place in hip-hop. There’s a clear lineage to it. Placing himself among strongholds of vinyl obscurity both established and new, Killer Bee knows and accepts exactly where he stands. Sometimes I find myself inundated with the wave of bass heavy, hook-centric hip-hop we as a culture have grown to love. It’s artists like Killer Bee that are keeping a dying art alive, the art of crate digging.
That’s not to say that this project sounds old or played out, just that it comes from a place that is more concerned with the craft than the fame. The ability to harvest these samples from across time and weave them into something that feels so fluid and comfortable is often under appreciated. Listening to this project for the first time, I was immediately transported to summer nights as a teenager spent curled up in a recliner in front of Adult Swim. Everything about this project seems to speak specifically to my experience growing up, like seeing a lost friend. The ability to make something that hits so close to home is beautiful and rare.
Not only does it have the potential to bring the listener back to a simpler time, it serves to remind us that we aren’t alone. This is especially important given the world we live in today. One where relentless divisiveness is becoming synonymous with political activism. These are shared experiences transcending space and time. From them, many uniquely beautiful things grow.
There are certain approaches to hip hop that I feel are overlooked. If you look at something like the piano, for instance, there are people who spend their entire life studying the classical genre. There really isn’t a parallel to that within hip-hop yet. I think, to an extent, crate digging and mellow, sample-based hip-hop should be approached like this. I don’t ever want this sound to go away. Just because the public side of hip-hop has moved on doesn’t mean this craft should be forgotten. We as a community need to appreciate the individuals who take the time to keep this side of the art alive.
If you can’t already tell what the project sounds like from what I’ve said thus far, then you probably won’t like it. If you think you know exactly what it sounds like, you’re right and you’re going to love it. I for one will be keeping the project on rotation for work sessions. For me, it will live among the other projects I reach to when I need something to keep me company working into the night. A reminder of our shared appreciation for the art, not the business, of hip hop.