Looking for an under the radar artist who’s deeply under-appreciated? Well in the Tokyo hip-hop scene it’s group_inou. The two member group consists of CP the MC and Imai who runs the tracks. While the group consists of only two members they pack a sound that rivals groups much larger then them.
The group released the first single BPA (Black Police Academy) in 2006. Then, within a year they turned out their first mini-album Foods, which contained five tracks including their single “COIN.”
“COIN” demanded group_inou some attention. The song starts off simply enough, a slightly off-kilter beat accented by electronic piano and CP dropping monotone lines over the music. Then the music takes a turn. The beat switches and CP’s rhythm follows. The lines come faster, the beat picks up. Then Ilmari throws in some old-school noise with scratching. Just as you’ve adjusted to the beat they mix it up again throwing in a more electronic, dance style piano that gets your head bobbing in unison to the beat. The rhythm continues to change. Imari manipulates the pace and style effortlessly while CP adjusts his speed and style to accommodate the new flow working out to be an intriguing listen that has you hitting the repeat button.
CP and Ilmari followed up the success of Foods with their first full album FAN with lead singles “Coming Out” and “SHIP.” When the album dropped in 2008 it only verified that group_inou is greatly over-looked. They proved that underneath the glorified gangster-fashionista front the hip-hop scene puts up, there is true talent lurking.
The single “SHIP” revisits the style of “COIN” where the beat is constantly changing up. Beginning with an upbeat, fast pace provoking you to move in rhythm it continues to slow down and pick it up again keeping your ears hooked to the sound. CP once again delivers his lines with an astounding speed and is able to drop it down, where at points he is almost in song leaving the rap style behind.
While “SHIP” showcases the bands talent, “Coming Out” is the diamond of the record. Aptly titled since it will likely push them further towards fame, the track gets you hooked from the start. The beat is more uniform and catchy enough to stick to your eardrums, having you humming along. While Imari pulls impressive tricks out of his music bag, CP’s level of diversity in deliverance is what is truly astonishing. He jumps from fast paced line spitting to being on the verge of an old-school crooner.
While group_inou possesses raw talent and a knack for great delivery, the best part of their gig is performance. They’ve put out a live performance DVD titled One Camera No Cut in 2006. Watching these performances you’d think Def Leppard was on stage in the early 80s. Imari completely loses himself in the flow of the song with limbs flying everywhere as the beats drop. Meanwhile CP fulfills the part of front man, throwing himself completely into his lines, his whole body moves with the delivery of each word. In true 80s hair band style CP is not afraid to inform you of his presence by leaping into the crowd or hyping up the crowd with ear-piercing yells into the mic.
Whether it’s a simple listen or a full on view of a live performance, group_inou is worth exploring. While they mostly fly under the radar presently it’s doubtful they’ll stay that way for long.