Review | Paradox Live “TRAP”

Paradox Live

The Paradox Live franchise wraps the 1st half of songs released in the Stage Battle CD series in a powerful release filled with highlights.

Paradox Live TRAP
Title: Paradox Live 1st album "TRAP"
Label: Avex
Release date: 31/03/2021
Genre: Hip-Hop

DISC 1 (songs)

1 - BaNG!!!
2 - MASTER OF MUSIC
3 - Where they at
4 - BAD BOYZ -悪漢奴等 Underground-
5 - AmBitious!!!
6 - Get it
7 - Faith
8 - OUTSIDERZ -悪漢奴等 is Justice-
9 - EmBlem!!!
10 - 4 REAL
11 - This Is My Love
12 - CALL FOR FAMILIEZ -悪漢奴等 is Forever –
13 - BErmud△ Tri△nglE (BAE)
14 - One Shot One Kill (The Cat’s Whiskers)
15 - Runnin’ (cozmez)
16 - A.K.Y.R -悪漢奴等 Go over da TRAP- (Akkan Yatsura)
17 - Rap Guerrilla -Paradox Live All ARTISTS-

Track by track analysis:

1 – BaNG!!!

[As previously reviewed] B.A.E are the rich hard hitters with their trendy mix of pop, rap, and trap, creating a hypnotic experience with BaNG!!!.

Washy synths, dark and dirty hits, a slow-paced, hard-hitting beat, and an explosive drop, make this song exude a grace and class that mixes the best of pop – catchy lyrics, simple compositions – with hip-hop’s deep, bassy beats and breath-holding drops.

When it comes to rap we get a full-on Asian experience with rap in Japanese, English, and Korean, the last two with close to perfect pronunciation.

It is impossible not to immediately fall in love with the team’s vibe, sound, and quality on the vocal/rap ends.

2 – MASTER OF MUSIC

[As previously reviewed]

Lo-fi has been an ongoing trend for those fans of chillout, jazz, and hip-hop music with a quieter approach. 

The Cat’s Whiskers embrace the whole lo-fi hip-hop movement with a classy song sampling jazz melodies, creating a soundscape that takes the listener to the bustling neon-sign-filled streets of Tokyo.

Saxophone and other brass help the whole jazzy vibe come to life at the same time that it creates such a relaxing backdrop for the song.

Rap is delivered with quite a few quirks in the mix. Natsuki Hanae stands out for its flamboyance whereas Ryota Takeuchi and Yu Hayashi stand out for their off-beat rap. 

Junta Terashima goes for a gentle, groovy rap performance that puts the cherry on top for this cool team.

3 – Where they at

[As previously reviewed]

If we’re talking about “explosive” in a trendy way then cozmez will instantly turn into your favorite team. The beat hits too hard, with the snare and hi-hats dictating the insane groove that takes you over.

Synths play a major role in shaping this electro-hop track, exuding a street style of trying to fight for the top no matter the obstacles. The fierce, trap beat, the simple yet straightforward rap, and the whole groovy and danceable vibe of the instrumental make it a really catchy track.

On the vocal/rap end you couldn’t get a better duo. Known as versatile singers with a vast background connected to music, Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Yusuke Kobayashi make one hell of power group within the franchise.

Their clean singing parts and the smooth rap are strangely alluring, enticing the listener to follow them and never take the eyes off them. Hypnotic performance and the highlight of this release.

4 – BAD BOYZ -悪漢奴等 Underground-

[As previously reviewed]

Akkan Yatsura embraces Afrobeat and blends it with a traditional Japanese music touch, giving birth to one of the most exotic fusion genres I’ve come across. A jolly afrobeat beat with touches of bongos and djembe, traditional Japanese wind instruments, and percussion hits create an addictive, danceable beat.

The looping lead synth gives exactly that South African touch that is commonly found, for example, but not exclusively, in Angolan and South African music.

The high versus low tension battle between Shogo Yano and Shunichi Toki is quite quirky and fun, giving a nice touch to the overall performance.

Tasuku Hatanaka goes insanely melodic that, for a split second, he sounded like Home Made Kazoku‘s Micro. The rest of the group goes all out, having fun and delivering a funky performance. 

5 – AmBitious!!!

[As previously reviewed]

Funky brass with trap accents set the music bed for BAE‘s newest song. AmBitious!!! brings out its charms with a tropical-inspired percussion which highly benefits from the brass to create an infectious tune with a mad bass line.

However, what happened to this track as it went all out late 00s brass-electronica meets late 10s tropical house?

The instrumental is definitely not hip-hop after the intro.

In comparison with BaNG!!!, it is a downgrade – both in its sonority and vibe. As a standalone track, it is a cool, trendy tropical-pop track with some hip-hop elements here and there that caters to the masses.

When it comes to the team’s rap game, BAE does not disappoint – just look at their lineup, it is hard for them to deliver a bad performance on this end.

The rap in the verses is powerful yet their rhymes are fancy. This duality is very much something that is starting to feel very “BAE”.

Really enjoyed their transitions between singing and rapping once again, this time with the whole team participating in the singing parts. Good team effort however a bit far from being a hip-hop track. 

6 – Get it

[As previously reviewed]

cozmez goes hard on this track. Get it is all about the hustle, the desire to reach the top, themes that are an important part of what this team is all about.

The lengths to which they will go to achieve their dreams show in the fierce lyrics and instrumental. You can tell they are not joking around or taking it too lightly by how dark and gritty the song is.

Trap is starting to solidify as the team’s trademark sound. It is bare, stiffening, and intimidating at times, setting a pitch-black tone to their music.

Orchestral accents and distant synths create a hypnotizing background to the fire being spat by the cozmez. The chorus is simple yet to the point. Initially, it seemed like the focus wasn’t on being catchy, it is on passing the message, the chorus serving only as a bridge to their words in the verses.

It still has a bit of truth on it however, as you revisit this song, you’ll notice that the simple chorus is actually the hook that makes you, the listener, join in and spit some rhymes along with the duo. It gets into you and you’ll be humming to it for a while.

Rap game for cozmez is pretty chill yet behind their chill approach to rapping is a passion and a fierceness that impresses with each performance of theirs.

Although with pretty similar flows, Kobayashi and Toyonaga have their quirks that make the two stand out in their own ways.

Toyonaga is more on chaining his rap in a sort of legato fashion whereas Kobayashi bounces through his lines. This is a unique touch to their performances.

cozmez brought the fire with them and they burned it all down with a masterful performance. 

7 – Faith

[As previously reviewed]

The Cat’s Whiskers come forward with quite the powerful, old-school hip-hop sound in “Faith”.

Love those vibes and the beautiful piano melody playing in the background, setting an elegant yet gritty stage for this team to make theirs.

The verses are introspective but still with a lot of bounce in that sampled beat. The chorus once again wins me over.

The piano melodies shine in this section, coming off as more melancholic than expected. This delicate touch to such a powerful song is quite refreshing.

When it comes to the rapping, massive props to The Cat’s Whiskers Ryota Takeuchi and Yuu Hayashi that went off in this track. They were overflowing with power and show a lot of focus with this incisive rap.

Aesthetically pleasing song with a pretty awesome rap on top.

8 – OUTSIDERZ -悪漢奴等 is Justice-

[As previously reviewed]

A bouncy, metallic bassline paints an urban soundscape for Akkan Yatsura’s entry, OUTSIDERZ – Akkan Yatsura is Justice –.

The beat is simple, focused on the power of that bass drum and broken bass melody. There is some additional percussion on this song, adding a rather rough and improvised touch to their sound.

The chorus is slow-paced yet, very intense, something that works so well with this song. Love the brass hits in the background that give this song a slight Latin, danceable touch.

Those dark, low-toned rap sections by Shunichi Toki stand out in the middle of a song that has quite the edgy, “gangster” vibe.

Tasuku Hatanaka spits fire in this song, making the honors of opening this song with a fierce, intense rap.

Takayuki Kondo is a joy to listen rapping. He’s been doing it for over a decade – remember D.A.T – and here he gets a lot of spotlight to try rap from a different perspective and with a different flavor. He’s one with the beat and is incredibly groovy in his delivery even if he has some roughness underneath.

Shima packs quite the punch in his performance, his rap is incisive, clean, and with a lot of power overflowing. Shogo Yano has a rather unique voice tone when rapping. It’s not the more pleasing to listen to but within Akkan Yatsura it works well.

9 – EmBlem!!!

[As previously reviewed]

BAE comes at you with EmBlem!!!, song that takes pride in its washy synths, R&B influences, and summery vibe. The bass line hits hard, going at it with the hi-hat-driven beat.

The verses flow in chillout, slightly sexy fashion, slowly making their way to the addictive and dreamy chorus in which 96neko’s vocals shine.

As far as BAE’s rap game goes, you can expect a lot of flair and confidence overflowing in this song. Gakuto Kajiwara’s rough vocals, Ayumu Murase’s smooth, bright singing and aggressive rap, and 96Neko’s stylish rap and clear vocals shine.

The synergy is impressive and their work as a team is awesome, not to mention that they own their solo parts.

10 – 4 REAL

[As previously reviewed]

Bring the lo-fi hip-hop back to the table, The Cat’s Whiskers have quite the old-school rap sound going in this song, very reminiscent of Wu-Tang-Clan.

4 REAL counts with minimalistic jazz drums, a bouncy bassline, elegant piano melodies sampled, and a beautiful saxophone melody playing in the background.

The verses channel a nostalgic, old-school sound that I love to bits. The lo-fi vibes are strong in this one, with jazz being more prominent in this song than on the team’s debut song.

The chorus… I feel this chorus. Love the background choir and how it blended with the powerful, passionate rap by The Cat’s Whiskers.

Natsuki Hanae was on fire for this song. Just… wow at his performance.

The intensity and fire in his rhymes could be felt and was highly appreciated. Ryota Takeuchi and Yuu Hayashi added flavor to this song, going from unique performances that covered slow-paced and introspective style to fiery off-beat rap with a lot of flair. Junta Terashima almost goes unnoticed but he was also on point.

Absolute masterclass by The Cat’s Whiskers.

11 – This Is My Love

[As previously reviewed]

Overdriven guitar riffs paint a nostalgic and gritty soundscape.

This is my love” counts with a deep bassline and a punchy, slow-paced crash-driven beat in the background.

The verses have varying levels of intensity, ranging from pretty stripped down with only the looping guitar riffs and a dirty bass line in the background to an all-out, intense affair with distant guitar licks.

The chorus has the same vibe and goes on the same note.

As a matter of fact, the transitions between verses and chorus are so well done that you barely notice that you’ve already gone through 2 chorus sections when the song wraps up.

It really goes by in a flash, which leaves me wanting more. It really doesn’t feel like the song is complete which may be intentional.

On the performance side, Yusuke Kobayashi and Toshiyuki Toyonaga deliver a passionate performance counting with rap and singing.

12 – CALL FOR FAMILIEZ -悪漢奴等 is Forever –

[As previously reviewed]

Akkan Yatsura bring the tropical vibe with some touches of afrobeat with CALL FOR FAMILIEZ – Akkan Yatsura is forever –.

The verses are warm and danceable despite being pretty stripped down, flowing on top of that groovy beat and synths.

There are some guitar riffs in the background, adding a melodic touch to this song.

Although it may go unnoticed, the bass line in the verses is so good, have the right bounce that makes this song all the more danceable.

Things change in the chorus, with the song getting more intense as the lyrics get more passionate.  

Awesome job as a team and individually, I was feeling those lyrics and those bonds between the members in their performances.

13 – BErmud△ Tri△nglE

Imposing brass melodies and orchestral hits take BAE to trap territory for “BErmud TringlE”.

The beat hits hard with a massive bass touch on top. The pre-chorus changes the tone to this song in a dramatic way but it is quite a cool addition. Atmospheric synths, chants by Gakuto Kajiwara and Ayumu Murase as 96neko dazzles with her melodic vocals is such a nice touch to this song.

The chorus is intense however downtempo which makes it all the more impactful. However, I feel like it is a bit too empty which is unusual for a team such as BAE that is all about style and fancy instrumentals. Solid track but hardly a highlight in their repertoire.

14 – One Shot One Kill

Wah-wah guitar riffs, rhodes piano melodies, a punchy bassline, and fancy piano melodies paint the background for The Cat’s Whiskers’ “One Shot One Kill”.

A mid-tempo breakbeat adds some spice to this track, helping to flesh out the cool, bouncy vibes going on in this track. The chorus is simple yet extremely addictive. If I had to say, this is the closest that The Cat’s Whiskers have come to perform a song appealing to the masses.

The rap is dynamic this time around, for example, Natsuki Hanae is on beat whereas Yuu Hayashi goes for that offbeat quirky rap performance that may sound off at first but the more you listen to it, the cooler that offset is. Ryota Takeuchi and Junta Terashima add depth with their introspective take on rapping.

One Shot One Kill” is fun however it lacks a bit of the elegance and mature vibe previous entries of theirs have.

15 – Runnin’

Orchestral stabs and hard-hitting beat fill in this wide and empty soundscape.

Runnin’” is as dirty as you could get from cozmez. Their grit shows in the massive chorus in which synths are aggressive and all over the place, with a massive bassline and beat in the background.

The rapping shifts between inbeat and offbeat and counts with plenty of mumble rap quirks in the chorus – the all-out muffled vocals – and those accents and random noises mid-verse.

While the instrumental is massive at times, there’s little to no substance to this song and the performance in the chorus absolutely kills it for me.

16 – A.K.Y.R -悪漢奴等 Go over da TRAP-

Akkan Yatsura brings to the spotlight an edgy rap tune with a heavily processed guitar riff and beat at its core.

 The verses are simple, with a clap track leading the way to the beat as the pounding muffled beat adds depth to this track.

The chorus in “A.K.Y.R -Akkan Yatsura Go over da TRAP-“ is as short and, surprisingly empty, as it could get.

The vibe is intense and the tone in the rap performances is hostile and violent, standing out in this release for its intensity.

17 – Rap Guerrilla -Paradox Live All ARTISTS-

BAE, The Cat’s Whiskers, cozmez, and Akkan Yatsura team up for the very first time to perform a song as an all-star group.

Rap Guerrilla -Paradox Live All ARTISTS-“ brings massive synths and a fat beat to the spotlight however, the verses showcase the charms of each group.

BAE’s synth-hop and The Cat’s Whiskers’ classy lo-fi jazz-hop take the first 1st verse and impress in their take on the imposing chorus.

cozmez’s mind-blowing trap sound and Akkan Yatsura’s explosive aggressive afrobeat sound paint the 2nd verse, adding a unique twist to the chorus.

Colossal track with quite the hook in itself and powerful performances that will have you on the edge of your seat.


Final considerations

PARADOX LIVE “TRAP” wraps up the first half of songs in the Stage Battle CD series.

Fans of the franchise get to revisit the group’s first set of song releases and newcomers find in this CD the perfect opportunity to jump in and get up to speed with all – the first half – of the music released in the massive Stage Battle series.

Among the new songs, it’s worth mentioning that “Rap Guerrilla -Paradox Live All ARTISTS-“ is everything and more that you’d want for an all-star type of song.

Each group takes their turn and the part of the verse they perform is in their trademark sound which is a nice touch.

The verses are split into 2 groups each and the chorus is neatly mixed to the point that it doesn’t sound crowded even with the big lineup the Paradox Live franchise has.

Out of the new team tracks, I felt like there were no real highlights in there. Some of the new tracks paled in comparison with the teams’ previously released songs.

The Cat’s Whiskers have the best new track out of them all with “One Shot One Kill” and even that song is not really what I’d call a good song of theirs. Definitely entertaining and with a good bounce but it lacks the team’s distinctive sound and approach to rap as it brought a simplistic, almost pop-driven chorus to the table.

As for the oldies, BAE’s “BaNG!!!” continues to be an awesome track to jam to.

This was the first contact with the Paradox Live franchise for those that follow the franchise since its inception. It is powerful, it features rap in 3 languages – Japanese, Korean and English – and it sounds refreshing in the 2D hip-hop panorama.

cozmez’s “Where they at…” is still a banger, one of the duo’s best songs, packing quite the punch while making a statement about their intentions to rise in the ranks and be successful.

The Cat’s Whiskers outstanding “Faith” spreads its class and elegance with the 90s inspired East side jazz-hop with a lo-fi twist. This is the kind of song that I can have on loop and not get tired of, enjoying the good vibes and astounding rap flows going on in the team.

Akkan Yatsura’s “CALL FOR FAMILIEZ – Akkan Yatsura” is a massive highlight among the “old” tracks in this album. Addictive afrobeat and a lot of love for the family is found in this cool tune.

These are only but the highlights in what is a long, 17-track album by the Paradox Live franchise.

Once again, if you’re trying to get into Paradox Live and don’t where to start with their music, I suggest you check this album out.

The songs are organized chronologically so you can experience the teams’ growth as well as understand a bit more the cool matchups that this franchise has provide for a whole year.

If you’re a longtime fan, this is a perfect release to check, especially for the awesome new set of songs by BAE, The Cat’s Whiskers, cozmez, and Akkan Yatsura.


[Disclaimer: Since Paradox Live is distributed by AVEX pictures THTFHQ won’t publish links to CDJAPAN’s store (or any store), as all stores are abiding by the label’s request not to export any of AVEX pictures‘ artist releases. More info on this can be found – HERE]


Paradox Live 1st album “TRAP” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support the Paradox Live franchise by streaming via official outlets.
REVIEW OVERVIEW
BaNG!!!
MASTER OF MUSIC
Where they at
BAD BOYZ -悪漢奴等 Underground-
AmBitious!!!
Get it
Faith
OUTSIDERZ -悪漢奴等 is Justice-
EmBlem!!!
4 REAL
This Is My Love
CALL FOR FAMILIEZ -悪漢奴等 is Forever –
BErmud△ Tri△nglE
One Shot One Kill
Runnin’
A.K.Y.R -悪漢奴等 Go over da TRAP-
Rap Guerrilla
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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