By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
Beat tapes have been made more popular than ever with the blow-up of streaming website Bandcamp several years ago. And while there seems to be an abundance of overly chill, nu-jazz beat tapes throwing down the same old 2-and-4 beat patterns, after some searching, an entirely new, colorful world of tapes with hours upon of hours of work put into them emerge. One such gem exists in the form of an entire summer’s effort, Otaku by Killer Bee.
Otaku, attempts to explore the meaning behind it’s name, the mania the genre has over anime culture and the judgements spit by others at it’s utterance. The expression of these ideas is not as easy as listening for lyrics and putting two and two together, only through multiple listens does the message become clear: serenity.
There’s a comforting feeling on this release. Samples are taken from no one source or time period, rather from a plethora of completely different artists from around the globe, but still all the sounds feel familiar and surprise the listener at the same time. And yet, this is a release that demands a full stream. Tracks don’t bleed into each other, they enhance each other’s presence.
It takes courage to rip samples from rap’s most lyrical minds, but Killer Bee takes workings from Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt and Easy E and speeds them up, slows them down, and modulates them all around, perfectly fitting them over clever beats which borrow from many electronic styles, from future-funk to footwork.
What separates Killer Bee from other artists though, is their ability to produce constant momentum. Otaku continually pushes forward and never looks back. Rarely are beats repeated for extended periods of time or are clever samples manipulated and strung out for the sake of novelty. Every track is a treasure with countless, unique characteristics to it’s title.
On Killer Bee’s Bandcamp, the artist credits a large number of sources as inspiration: ‘80s acid house, jazz, Zen Buddhism, reel to reel machines, cassette culture, Rihanna and of course anime (just to name a few). It sounds like a who’s who of trends in lo-fi hip hop and related genres; a mess of ideas that should add up to an easily calculable ERROR message. Yet, Otaku exists in it’s own box, never exceeding its boundaries, jamming every corner with a conglomerate of textures and patterns.