There are many articles, tribute albums and everyday confessions, praising the music and the short life of Nujabes. But despite being on the verge of overconsumption (or even exploitation), one can argue that they are not merely enough. How did this artist become so great in the eyes and ears of beat-makers and listeners?
Someone might reluctantly point out that most of Nujabes’ music is just a nice sample "with a beat on top", after all Counting Stars is José Feliciano's ‘Affirmation’, and Luv(sic) Part 2 just the intro of Qualquer Dia looped over and over. Other songs that are original compositions, usually feature Uyama Hiroto on the piano. So, how come Nujabes is so acknowledged and praised in the Hip-Hop community? Ridiculous as these questions may be, they do hold a certain amount of justification, particularly for someone not familiar with the craftsmanship behind his workflow.
But what differentiates Nujabes from almost all beat-makers, is not his ability to compose or arrange complicated songs, rather his unique gift to identify, project and quantify the emotional elements of a piece. He managed to do that with such a level of artistry, making you grow a very personal bond with the song even if you’re listening it for the first time. Nujabes’ songs come packed with so much longing, reminiscence and bittersweetness, effortlessly accommodating every meaningful moment in your life. They demand an emotional response, whether that be joy, sorrow or anything in between.
And that quality is far more important (and rare) than many others commonly praised in the music world, like how "catchy" a tune is, or its production values. Because these attributes, important as they may be, they can't replace the deep connection you develop with a song that can stimulate your emotions. Sure, a catchy melody will ensure that by listening a song once, you will humm it for the rest of the week, but after that? Or how about when you feel down?
Songs that have this almost spiritual quality are usually the ones that stay with you for the rest of your days, and acquire analogous importance to songs from your teenage years. And Nujabes' songs don't just have this quality,they rather are this quality, served raw, "with a beat on top". Consequently, one cannot help but put Nujabes and his music on very high regard and praise him on every opportunity.
Nonetheless, it should be mentioned that somewhat responsible for the broader honoring of Nujabes is also his tragic passing, as well as the limited amount of resources outside his actual music. The fact that this is the only video of the man himself, and that there are no interviews or excerpts of his words, or that even his pictures can be counted in the fingers of one hand, is the perfect remedy for further glorification.
But this also allows for a very personal relation to the music, since it's neither represented nor spelled out. In a way, the music he left behind is for everyone to take, be influenced by and eventually evolve. Nujabes’ music can be heard through countless artists, and it’s instantly identifiable by the attempt to provoke an analogous emotional response. Examples such as nitsua or Leehahn are only scatters in a genre that has been completely transformed since Nujabes briefly passed through it.
Undoubtedly, Jun departed early, as did many greats before him. He did manage however to influence the world for the better, and also inspire a whole generation (so far) of musicians, beat-makers and listeners. And that is every musician's ultimate aspiration.