ILLmura Fast Lane

Japan’s ILLmura has got more than enough mic presence and flow to surmount the language barrier with his Fast Lane mini-album, but it’s the musical backdrop provided by HISA (aka Hideo Sasaki) and SKK that make this album such a treat to return to again and again. For example, "Pick of the Throw” incorporates a thick bass line, plenty of drums and some New Age effects thanks to HISA, who has worked with DJ Krush. Not only does it feature the album’s only guests (Kan, Primal and Motoy), but it also happens to be the album’s best song. "Benjamin” is the perfect follow-up to the more organic "Pick of the Throw.” Produced by SKK, equal attention is paid to the drums here, as well as the addition of clicking wood blocks, wind instruments, an organ, and some trumpet licks. HISA’s "BF1” starts with mechanical sounds, pulling in some piano for the second verse, and concluding with a smooth instrumental to add your own third verse. On "Sun Water,” Fast Lane fails for the first and only time with SKK flipping from generic melodrama to metal riffs and back again. But it’s hard to stay mad with anything once HISA’s cartoony "Panic Room” instrumental kicks in to bring the album to a fun time finish. Anyone willing to accept hip-hop in a foreign language would be well-advised to seek Fast Lane out. (Positive)