The Paradox Live celebrates cozmez’s victory in the Stage Battle series and welcomes Buraikan to the lineup with a powerful album in “Live“.
Title: Paradox Live 2nd album "LIVE" Label: Avex Release date: 21/07/2021 Genre: Hip-Hop
DISC 1 (songs)
1 - FRE△KOUT (BAE) 2 - Life Is Beautiful (The Cat's Whiskers) 3 - Back Off (cozmez) 4 - REBELLION -悪漢奴等 is still Burning- (Akkan Yatsura) 5 - Mercy On Me (The Cat's Whiskers) 6 - Ain’t No Love (cozmez) 7 - F△Bulous (BAE) 8 - ROWDIEZ -悪漢奴等 Wanted Vibes- (Akkan Yatsura) 9 - Better Dayz (cozmez) 10 - BURAIKAN is Back (Buraikan)
Track by track analysis:
1 – FRE△KOUT
A tight, triplets and bass-driven beat leads the way for “FRE△KOUT”. The verses count with massive synths and a hard-hitting beat.
But where things get impressive is in the chorus. The instrumental introduces fancy brassy hits to it, slightly changing the dynamics to this song with the power on BAE’s rhymes and clean singing impressing.
This was a cool change of tone for the trio, kicking off this album in an imposing fashion.
2 – Life Is Beautiful
The Cat’s Whiskers bring boom-bap beats and lo-fi jazz samples to the spotlight for the laidback “Life is beautiful”. The verses have a 90s feel to them, carrying a bit of nostalgia while celebrating life.
The chorus is big, with brass joining in the pounding breakbeat, giving this song an awesome and addictive twist.
The slow, stripped-down break calling you to clap along will pull you in, making it quite the engaging performance.
The rap performances were so on brand with what The Cat’s Whiskers have presented us so far with however, time and time again those sound refreshing, they hype you up while being pretty chill about it all.
I just love this about The Cat’s Whiskers, the class and elegance in the sampling work in their music and then, on top, vocals that call for you, connect with you.
Awesome job yet again.
3 – Back Off
cozmez brings an intense trap sound to the table with “Back off”. This song is a statement. Orchestral stabs paint a gritty soundscape as the beat pounds in your ears.
The pre-chorus is clean, with a groovy beat and atmospheric synths building up the tension in a fantastic way, leading to a hard-hitting, bassy chorus with an intensity that stands out in this CD.
Yusuke Kobayashi and Toshiyuki Toyonaga are on a completely different level when it comes to rapping. Their flow and chemistry allied to their awesome clean vocals will make your jaw drop.
4 – REBELLION -悪漢奴等 is still Burning-
An imposing beat sets a dramatic tone to this track, in the background, synths and string stabs add depth to the song.
“REBELLION – Akkan Yatsura is still Burning –“ is a dirty rap song with simple, gritty verses with a massive focus on a deep bassy sound with equally bassy piano melodies.
The chorus cranks up the intensity however it brings to the spotlight auto-tuned vocals, something that doesn’t sit well with this song.
The performances are aggressive with Takayuki Kondo and Tasuku Hatanaka standing out for their intense and rough performances.
5 – Mercy On Me
The Cat’s Whiskers make a big entrance with “Mercy On Me”. The song explores a classy jazzy downtempo lo-fi beat on top of clean guitar riffs.
The soundscape created for this song is that of laidback late summer evening or lounge. It’s the kind of sound that you want to get lost in, sit back, and enjoy those good vibes.
The verses are introspective with the chorus being insanely melodic on top of that beautiful piano and bluesy guitar melodies.
The Cat’s Whiskers deliver an elegant performance in this song, capitalizing on the good vibes of this track while showing a lot of composure throughout.
6 – Ain’t No Love
[TRIGGER WARNING: violence, negligence, abuse, prostitution, drug trafficking mentioned in the lyrics]
Closing this first chapter of the Stage Battle series is “Ain’t No Love”, song with a hard-hitting bassy beat and urgent synths.
The verses have a massive focus on the bass sound, building up the tension to the chorus in which you are greeted by minimalistic piano hits that a cool twist to an instrumental that, otherwise would be too dark and grim.
Those hi-hat triplets and bouncy beat in the chorus will have you jamming along to this song in no time.
cozmez is emotional and, in a way, somber yet intense in the way they tackled those sensitive and extremely personal lyrics. They continue to showcase their insane teamwork and flow.
This is the kind of performance that will make chills run down your spine.
7 – F△Bulous
“F△Bulous” is song that makes a big entry with a groovy bassline leading the way however, much changes as soon as the first verse makes its entrance.
The verses have a closed, tight sound that focuses on those dirty, pounding synths and simple beat. The feeling you get, in a way, is of emptiness.
But BAE has a trump up their sleeve and that comes through the summery chorus, bringing to the spotlight funky guitar riffs and a punchy bassline that will have you jamming along to it.
Everything about this chorus feels good and makes me wish the rest of the song had followed this direction instead of the rather uneventful verses.
When it comes to the rap and singing by the talented trio, they did not disappoint.
Gakuto Kajiwara adds a rough twist to their performance while 96neko adds an ethereal touch to the performance. At the same time, Ayumu Murase absolutely dazzles as he glides between Japanese, English, and Korean in his singing and rapping parts.
But when the chorus makes its entrance, their singing shines beyond what I’d expect. They bring energy and good vibes to this song.
8 – ROWDIEZ -悪漢奴等 Wanted Vibes-
Wrapping up this single is Akkan Yatsura with “ROWDIEZ – Akkan Yatsura Wanted Vibes –“, song that has a lot of identity.
Brass and a clap track do the honors for this track, creating an addictive tune that will take you to the dancefloor in no time.
There’s a duality to this song that is strangely addictive.
The verses with middle-eastern rhythms and melodies with a kawala melody leading the way and later on what seems to be the sound of a mijwiz (although with the melody heavily post-processed) carrying over to the chorus.
And the chorus capitalizes on that sound, bringing it to the spotlight alongside the team’s trademark afrobeat sound with brass at center stage.
In instrumental alone, “ROWDIEZ – Akkan Yatsura Wanted Vibes –“ is a striking, unique song.
On the rap side, Akkan Yatsura’s members bring roughness to the verses and, in an interesting contrast, sing in the pre-chorus, leaving a rather empty chorus as a massive dancebreak.
9 – Better Dayz
Dreamy vibes paint a hopeful soundscape to “Better Dayz”, slowly and smoothly leading the way to a laidback first chorus.
The verses bring the duo’s trademark trap orchestral hits, hard-hitting beat, and a deep bassline, contrasting with the beauty of those dreamy vibes.
What is interesting in this song is how the dark and bright vibes are split between Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Yusuke Kobayashi – respectfully.
When the time comes for the chorus, those two sides to the group blend and create what we know as cozmez, a duo with grit and hunger for the top.
For those waiting for an aggressive, intense song, “Better Dayz” will obviously sound different. In a way, this “difference” in tone reflects the path the duo had to go through during the Stage Battle season CD series, emerging on top, facing better days.
Although far from being their best song, the message in the lyrics is refreshing and suits the duo well.
10 – BURAIKAN is Back
When it comes to a throwback sound, Buraikan doesn’t disappoint.
The bassline is punchy, the beat simple but incisive with a lot of deep bass going on, the groove is strong in this track despite its downtempo.
The synth melodies give an early 90s vibe while the main motif piano melody channels those early 00s hip-hop vibes – arguably the last era of high-quality hip-hop music – throughout. In a way, those two elements may be there to symbolize in a musical way the “legend” status that the group has, riding on an old-school sound that makes a massive impression from the get-go.
The verses are big in their bass sound but the chorus is pure delight.
Electric guitars, although subdued – join in the track, the piano melody is melancholic and gritty, and the harmonies in the vocals stand out for their quality.
The unexpected mix of Junichi Suwabe’s powerful bass vocals and Kensho Ono’s tenor vocals create a unique vibe to this duo, bringing to the spotlight an imposing vibe, some allure and unusual beauty in the middle of all that grit.
Their dynamic works really well, with Suwabe having a slow-paced – almost narration-like – style of rapping that while it was obviously focused on sounding “untouchable” it also brings a bit of allure to the mix (it’s hard for Suwabe to not charm everyone with those bassy vocals) whereas Ono goes for a melody style of rapping while intentionally sounding raw and intense.
Easily one of the best “introduction” tracks for a 2D group and a candidate for best hip-hop track released this year by a 2D group.
The Paradox Live franchise wraps up the first big cycle of music releases by compiling the most recent releases in the Stage Battle Season series as well as giving the spotlight to its winner cozmez as well as introducing a new, legendary crew in its story, Buraikan.
BAE brought their intensity and exclusivity with “FREAKOUT” and “FABULOUS”, two of their strongest songs, quite possibly my favorites of theirs since debut. They have a cool mix of hip-hop with pop that gives them a unique identity and their rap skills + chemistry make the group stand out.
While all members are impressive in their own way, Ayumu Murase keeps on making my jaw drop with his performances. That’s a vocal chameleon right there.
If you’re looking for a more elegant and refined hip-hop sound, The Cat’s Whiskers has that for you. Their songs “Life is Beautiful” and “Mercy on me” make an appearance.
While “Mercy on me” is a good song of theirs, it actually strays a bit away from their lo-fi hip-hop sound (it can be a positive point for some of you) something that threw me off on a first listen. “Life is Beautiful” is truly the group’s best song to date.
Not only is the message pretty simplistic but with an inspirational vibe, but it also perfectly captures that Jazz-hop, lo-fi sound that you could get from the 90s US east side hip-hop. It is refined, with a big focus on sampled brass melodies, a massive breakbeat, and nostalgic piano melody channeling those emotional vibes to their music.
If there’s a song that best describes this group sonically, it’s “Life is Beautiful”.
cozmez brought their grit and intensity with a powerful set of tracks “Back off”, “Ain’t no love” and the new song “Better Dayz”.
“Back off” is a statement. I love how the duo managed to showcased two completely distinct vibes within the same song and it worked. The aggressive side in the verses and chorus and the melodic, apparently bright side in the pre-chorus.
“Ain’t no love” is one of the most straightforward and unfiltered songs performed by a 2D group – ever -, tackling dark, heavily personal themes not with anger but with a certain regret and distance. It’s a chilling performance with lyrics that may trigger some people given the themes explored.
It’s raw. Intense. It’s the song I believe handed the victory in the Stage Battle CD series to cozmez.
“Better Dayz”, in a way, is a song that comes as a follow-up to those tracks lyrics-wise however it has a brighter, hopeful, and inspiring vibe than all other songs in their repertoire. That, in itself, is refreshing.
The duo grew through the experience of participating in the Stage Battle series and have made their main dream come true.
This is not necessarily a song that is catchy or memorable – given its bubbly vibe – but it is a solid entry in their repertoire.
Akkan Yatsura is a really consistent group. Their songs are really all in the same tone and with the same vibe – which can lead to, if you like one song of theirs, then you like all (as well as the opposite) – and their performances are always a bundle of fun to listen to.
They relish on pure power while showcasing – in various ways – their pride in their bonds, in their “family” of misfits. That’s an awesome sentiment and you can really feel it in “REBELLION – Akkan Yatsura is still Burning –” and “ROWDIEZ – Akkan Yatsura Wanted Vibes –“.
They are really far from being the group I enjoy the most in this franchise – much because I’m not a big fan of the whole Afrobeat-meets-Caribbean music sound that is a trend right now in mainstream music.
It works really well for some songs but in others, it sounds a bit over the top or does not bring any novelty to their music. Still, it’s obvious why the group pulls the most streams alongside BAE: their sound is trendy and much in line with what is considered “mainstream” music.
Of course, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Once again, their strength is their consistency. Their sound captures a unique vibe while still going the trendy route and it never changes within their repertoire.
If you’re looking for a fun, danceable hip-hop sound, Akkan Yatsura is a masterful group at it.
The big surprise – and an instant favorite – is Buraikan. The group joins the franchise with an old-school hip-hop vibe (are the early 00s already considered old-school?) that brings a bit of R&B into the mix and what ensues is quite possibly one of the best “introductory” songs for a 2D group I’ve heard in a long time.
“BURAIKAN is Back” is the hip-hop track that I’d been waiting for a hip-hop group – within the 2 hip-hop-centric projects available – would release.
It’s got that grit of early 00s hip-hop sound, that gangster, “bad boy” vibe that marked most hip-hop artists during that era.
Buraikan is not on your face being aggressive just for the sake of it. Their sound and words showcase their intensity with a unique, laidback flair while still making sure you know where you stand. That “untouchable” aura is really something.
The little nods to the 90s and 00s in the instrumental will put a smile on the faces of fans of old-school hip-hop music (it sure put on mine) and the groove in the track will make sure everyone else will be jamming to it in no time.
That’s how you make an entrance (in this case, how you make an entrance and steal the show).
All in all, “Paradox Live 2nd album “LIVE”” wraps up the Stage Battle CD series in style.
Unique identities, plenty of groovy tracks nodding to lesser-known hip-hop subgenres, and a whole lot of quality on the rap/singing department.
This album revisits the most recent tracks by all teams and celebrates cozmez’s victory while introducing the powerful Buraikan to their fans.
A powerful album that makes me really excited for what awaits in the Paradox Live franchise.
On another note:
Paradox Live is a mixed media project that has hip-hop music as its selling point.
The project is developed by Avex and G Crest and counts with 5 teams:
- BAE consists on Gakuto Kajiwara, Ayumu Murase and 96Neko.
- The Cat’s Whiskers consists on Ryota Takeuchi, Yu Hayashi, Natsuki Hanae and Junta Terashima.
- cozmez consists on Yusuke Kobayashi and Toshiyuki Toyonaga.
- 悪漢奴等 (Akkan Yatsura) consists on Takayuki Kondo, Shima, Shunichi Toki, Tasuku Hatanaka and Shogo Yano.
- 武雷管 (Buraikan) consists on Kensho Ono and Junichi Suwabe.
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