PREVIEW In the same manner that Japan has had a history of appreciation and innovation in jazz, the Land of the Rising Sun has become a rising star in the hip-hop diaspora. From DMC turntablist world champ DJ Kentaro through the enduring DJ Krush, our counterparts on the other side of the Pacific Rim have steadily been holding their own. DJ Mitsu the Beats continues the new tradition, with a flair for head-nodding hip-hop and the odd broken beat jam, always keeping things on a jazzy tip.
Growing up in the northern Japanese city of Sendai, where he still resides, Mitsu first got hooked on hip-hop via a TV show that presented breakdancing and guests like Heavy D. He showed obvious talent once he took to the turntables himself and soon ended up doing battle with DJ Kentaro before making the inevitable transition to production. His work caught the ear of Jazzy Sport, a Tokyo record store and label that has gone on to release works by the likes of SA-RA, and in 2003 Mitsu released an eponymous EP for sub-label Planetgroove. In what would become typical Mitsu style, the record included guest vocals from such guests as Philadelphia soul siren Lady Alma and fellow Japanese artist MC Hunger, with the producer subtly choosing loops and rhythms that best suited each style on the mic.
That record and others found many fans abroad, and Mitsu went on to provide dozens of remixes for labels like Italy's Irma and Canada's Do Right! He also teamed up with Hunger and DJ Mu-R to form Gagle, which released an album for Jazzy Sport in 2005 and another for Columbia last year. Mitsu has never strayed far from the beats-plus-samples framework that has driven hip-hop since its inception. But with deft production skills and an uncanny ear for hooks that stick in your mind, he's given new life to the old chestnut that being good is different enough.
DJ MITSU THE BEATS Fri/4, 10 p.m., $10. Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, SF. (415) 441-1751, www.polenglounge.com
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