Handcuts Records: enter the indie label from Shibuya, Tokyo.
Ok, let’s say this straight: this one is a fully-fledged gem. We are here to tribute a veritable Japanese indie hip-hop label, Handcuts Records from Shibuya, Tokyo.
In its eight-years-long life span, the label has published an incredible quantity of American (but also Canadian, and even European) hip hop, coupled with an outstanding quality of artists and products.
What do Marley Marl‘s own “Hip Hop Dictionary” and Pete Rock‘s masterpiece Back on da Block have in common? Well, nothing really apart from the fact that they were both published by this small label, focused solely on foreign artists and, let me add, solely on great Hip-Hop music.
Hidden gems in the true meaning of the word: a surreal experience.
The mere fact that Handcuts was a Japanese label, dead for more than a decade, prevented us from finding precise information about it. For instance, we are able to tell you the nicknames of its employees (we thank them for what they did, by the way!), but not to know much more about their incredible and somewhat surreal experience.
So, we will borrow the words of one of the artists involved. After publishing the first (and only album) of Phocus (a group composed by Muneshine and Sycorax One) in 2004, Handcuts Records reached out about publishing something new from Muneshine.
For his solo album, Muneshine explicitly imposed the following condition: “I would make a solo album to release with Handcuts if they could get me a beat from Pete Rock and DJ Spinna”.
As a result, both producers were featured on Muneshine’s first solo. You can also find the track produced by DJ Spinna in our tribute mixtape here.
A diverse roster to summarize the greatness: plus exclusives, remixes, and special versions.
What’s really amazing about the label is the variety of its roster, spanning from veterans of the New York Hip-Hop scene like Pete Rock, Lord Finesse (here in one of his last tracks as a rapper), and Grand Puba, to little known American acts hailing from minor scenes.
We’re thinking of the likes of Atlanta’s own Collective Efforts, or Waco’s trio Verbal Seed, as well as of renowned underground groups like Ugly Duckling and Zion I, or European acts like the Swedish crew Speech Defect or the Dutch outfit La Melodia.
We might also add that their records were choke-full of crazy remixes and alternate versions, like those crafted by Dj Krush or Muro (this fact alone earns Handcuts Records my undying gratitude). Not to mention also Nomak, Smooth Current and Lark Chillout.
Due to the persisting Americentrism of this music, these songs are probably the least known of all the aforementioned rappers and producers, despite many of them actually being American themselves.
But this leaves us plenty of stuff to explore and believe me, there are gems to discover here. The Japanese market has always been unique, an expression of a very precise taste: you will also find it in these tracks. A unique ability to give space to foreign artists, but at the same time to make them express themselves according to the specific local taste.
Something that, by the way, we believe has no comparison elsewhere.
And that’s what we are presenting to you all today: StrettoBlaster and Concrete Jungle together again with a tribute mixtape to yet another incredible indie hip-hop label!
Enjoy the listening and best regards, y’all!
Handcuts Records Tribute Mixtape – The Blast Podcast #133
01 Peace Island – Speech Defect & Wack Wack Rhythm Band
02 Smack – Ugly Duckling
03 It’s All Real – Marley Marl feat. Lords Of The Underground
04 Yes Yes – Zion I feat. Lyrics Born, Gift of Gab
05 Revenge (Muroxanne Mix) – Pete Rock feat. Grap Luva
06 Velodrome – Pismo feat. Shing02
07 Ain’t That Some – Phocus
08 Overdrive – Muneshine feat. Supastition
09 Slow Money – Verbal Seed
10 Back On Da Block (DJ Krush Rmx) – Pete Rock feat. C.L. Smooth
11 Believe Dat – The Solution feat. Dilated Peoples
12 Real Talk – Lord Finesse feat. Grand Puba