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Nigo - I Know NIGO! Music Album Reviews

Nigo - I Know NIGO! Music Album Reviews
The Japanese fashion designer’s passion project is characteristically stylish and star-studded, featuring contributions from Pharrell, Kanye West, Tyler the Creator, and the late Pop Smoke.

If you were a viewer of Japanese variety shows around 2005, you likely noticed a man dressed in fluorescent camouflage who looked very much out of place in the parade of poised stars and goofy comedians. Nigo was then a Japanese designer in his mid-30s but he looked more like an American rapper, down to the chains draped around his neck and the grills he wore in his teeth. Though he wasn’t yet a household name in Japan, his clothing line, A Bathing Ape, was making waves in the U.S. thanks to early adopters like Pharrell Williams and Clipse (Pusha T’s ongoing feud with Drake can be traced back to Lil Wayne wearing a BAPE hoodie on the cover of VIBE in 2006). Right around this time, Nigo launched his first serious attempt to pivot to music, the hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz. He served as the group’s DJ and svengali, assembling a crack team of Japanese rappers and calling in favors from friends like Daft Punk, Ad-Rock, and DJ Premier. The group’s Def Jam debut was a modest success in Japan but the mostly Japanese-language album predictably failed to break through in the U.S.

Nearly two decades later, having cemented his legacy as one of the most influential streetwear designers of all time (“Bape is my generation’s Chanel,” the late Virgil Abloh once said), Nigo is giving music another shot. This time around, the album bears his own name—his first international solo release since 2000’s Ape Sounds—and he’s enlisted Pharrell to serve alongside him as co-executive producer, as well as a rotating cast of A-list rappers. The bulk of the production on I Know NIGO! is credited to Pharrell and the Neptunes, with a few additional producers filling in the gaps; the beats are as sturdy and tuneful as you’d expect but not as adventurous as you might hope. As for Nigo, his role in creating these songs seems to be similar to that of James Lavelle’s role in Unkle (incidentally, Lavelle put out Ape Sounds on his Mo’ Wax imprint): not as much a musician as an ideas guy with a deep Rolodex.

Nonetheless, Nigo and Pharell manage to produce a largely enjoyable and consistent compilation that recalls DJ mixtapes of the mid-2000s. If nothing else, the standout tracks are worth seeking out. While it’s not quite “Potato Salad,” “Lost and Found Freestyle 2019” demonstrates that Tyler and A$AP Rocky have chemistry to spare; both here and on the album closer, “Come On, Let’s Go,” we’re reminded that Tyler is incapable of phoning in a verse. Just as noteworthy, “Punch Bowl” reunites the Thornton brothers with the Neptunes for the first Clipse track since 2019. While No Malice admittedly sounds a bit rusty, it’s oddly heartwarming to hear him spit lines like “My Chingo Bling meet me at Dulles” alongside his brother. Pusha T also gets a solo turn on the Kanye West-produced “Hear Me Clearly,” which feels of a piece with his last few years of reliably great solo work.

As tends to be the case with DJ mixtapes, a few tracks fall short of their potential or fade into the background. “Arya” is fairly rote as far as late-period A$AP Rocky goes—it sounds sophisticated, refined, and pretty inert: rap music for art dealers. If you find Kid Cudi cloying, the rave-like “Want It Bad” will not change your mind. On paper, “Heavy” sounds like a clear highlight: Lil Uzi Vert facing off against a lumbering, funereal beat from drill mainstay AXL Beats. Sadly, Uzi sidesteps the challenge by rapping in half-time, instead of trying to keep pace with the drums. It’s still one of the better tracks here, even though it feels like Uzi is holding back.

I Know NIGO! is clearly a labor of love, from a man whose passion for all things hip-hop has never been in question. Even so, there’s an uncomfortable question that hangs in the air around figures like Nigo: When you’ve made a career out of selling your proximity to Black American culture, what, in turn, might you owe to actual Black Americans? “It is hard to witness the pain of friends,” Nigo wrote in 2020, announcing a campaign to raise funds for Black Lives Matter. “...I have been thinking about what I can or should do as a Japanese person.” Plenty of fashion designers were conspicuously silent during that summer of protests, so Nigo’s effort is commendable. As a recording artist, though, it’s instructive to compare him with one of his contemporaries, Abloh, whose advocacy for new artists in both music and fashion was tireless. In place of a Gunna feature or yet another posthumous Pop Smoke song, which new artists could Nigo have used his platform to highlight? I Know NIGO! is a fun project and its marquee names largely deliver but it serves to further fortify Nigo’s legacy rather than pay it forward.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Nigo - I Know NIGO! Music Album Reviews Nigo - I Know NIGO! Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, April 08, 2022 Rating: 5

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