Today, one of my favorite producers Matthew “2 Mello” Hopkins released his latest project; Memories of Tokyo-To: An Ode To Jet Set Radio. The album is in dedication to Jet Set Radio (JSR) it’s ideals, and the music it introduced people to back in 2000.
As such, the album is dedicated to Hideki Naganuma and Professor K to name a few (it’s dedicated to a lot of folks). Mello has been making music for over 15 years. So a multi-dimensional artist this 17 track album has a lot music to enjoy. What follows is a deep analytical breakdown of the entire album. As always I hope you enjoy the music.
Pump Up The Love
Mello kicks off the album the best way possible, with a rock song. The choice of a rock actually makes sense. The first track you’d often hear in the game would be something of a party starter. So, a high energy rock n roll jam is certainly the way to do it. He takes the time to incorporate his signature style of adding intricate drums, bass, vocal snippets, and etc woven within layers. No section of the song is more punctuated than at point 2:37 when the guitar returns. The addition of the accompanying trumpet work is nothing short of impressive.
Here I Go
Track 2 serves as the introduction to the narrative the album is inspired by. Mello opens with a fictional news report. The fictional oppressor of the youth declares some nonsense. The song then starts with a mean series of beat boxing (he can do that!) provided by none other than Mello himself. He than transitions from uptempo series of keys to full on rock. Then there’s drums so interlaced, you have to nod your head. He then shifts seemingly between the song’s various phases. This album more than anything reinforces that his work with stylistic transitions is artisan. As the song’s title implies there he goes.
This is the project’s certified a funky jam, well one of them anyway. The song begins with Matthew singing and then sliding effortlessly into a series of raps. Although he’s a musician and instrumentalist, he’s also a vocalist/lyrical rapper. Fairly certain, he might try to downplay this. Try and fail. Track 3 really is that quintessential “this is what I can do” song. He plays this right up until the song’s final minute. He speaks on the fact he might not be able to rap(he can) but he can create an instrumental via beatboxing and the like. Something which isn’t easy.
Midnight In Tokyo-to (ft. Anton Corazza)
Not to play favorites but track 4, very well maybe my favorite song. Being a jazz fan, I believe it may have been inspired by Afro-Latin Jazz. The song sounds more of a combined mix of jazz and rock. The song becomes sexier (yep the right word) at 1 minute 30 seconds in. Saxophonist, Anton Corazza joins Hopkins on the smooth jams. The sax crescendos from 2:20 to 2:30 and that sequence into the song, is eye opening. As Corazaa’s sax becomes the focus of the song, Mello has layered a series of synthesized sounds echoing in the background. Again, he displays a mastery of transforming tones and soundscape for listeners. By the way, this is a song best listened to at midnight.
Old To The New
This project in 2Mello’s own words, is an appreciation. An appreciation of music that inspired him as an artist. That being said, this is also admiration of old time jams. Older songs and genres given new life. This is an essential part of music, what’s old is new again in a cyclical manner. Old to the New is a re-imagining of some good old funk. What he’s able to produce is a song that our parents like and that we can party with. With an army of drums, cymbals, and solid arrangements he’s made it very modern. Track 5 should be slipped into your funky classics.
Continuing with that same mindset from Track 5, we have Reach Out. This point in the soundtrack shares similarities with the game. The midpoint consisted of some very modernized productions of oldies. Again, he’s showing us a deep understanding of keeping the old jams alive. With track 6 you can really feel the bass in tune with the repeating vocals of the song’s theme. Reaching out for the good times or good music? Maybe both. Matt has an ear for creating songs best fitted for clubs/parties. Even though he may not be the biggest fan of going to them.
Jet Set Classic (Interlude)
Track lucky number seven is our interlude. Professor K, the JSR series DJ introduces a classic. Although he says classic, Mello has something new for the ears. It’s very much a more intimate acoustic jam. Compared to the album, it’s actually the the most laid back song. This is of course not to undersell it in any way. The song really feels as if a small band at a venue Is entertaining the crowd. Classics tend to be songs we have warm memories of. I’m fairly certain Matthew wanted to invoke those feelings with this 2 minute interlude.
24 Hour Party People
On track 8, Mello is once again providing his skillfull vocals. He’s expressed that a lot of this album is him outdoing all his previous efforts. 24 Hour Party People is something of a juxtaposition for him. The music he creates speaks upon a lifestyle he’s not exactly a fan of. Maybe he’s introverted (I think ?) and would rather create tunes at home. He entertains with his vocal range as he provides chorus, hook and etc to get his point across. It wouldn’t be thematically on point, if it wasn’t a very jazzy affair of a song.
Diggin It Baby
When I listen to Digging It Baby…I wonder if its being very literal with its title. Music production involves a series of understanding. Such as digging for music; either at the store or online. Or it could be neither of these things. It could be a title that refers to enjoying music. Again, Mello takes the time to craft a real jam from another oldie. The album does a lot calling back to classics. This very funky jam is a series of cleans, steady bass, and sax. Whom doesn’t like a song without a serious sax.
Track 10 really invokes images of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and some old school Lupin III. To that end, the song it a fast funky affair. It incorporates sirens, alarms, and all manner of warning sounds. You know the kind you’d hear during an escape sequence. In keeping up with the times, the song is made modern with the complex structure of drums and bass. At 1:46, uplifting vocals join in the song to elevate into something fun that you can nod the head to.
So with track 11 we arrive at Benten-cho Boogie. The song is inspired by the a particular gang in JSR, the Noise Tanks. The Noise Tanks are kids obsessed with all things electronic. Music, devices, clothes and so forth. It’s only naturally this song is electronica at it’s core. What accompanies the bassline is a series of synthesized sounds and beats. With a lighter bass and drums the electronic nature of the sound is appreciated more. For good measure, some light rap is added but it doesn’t overlap the tune. Mello’s jams aren’t complete without a transitional sequence. So, at 1:35 the song turns on it’s head and became a nu jazz piece. However that’s fleeting as we return back to the electronica.
Rock The Beat!!
Moving on from track 11, is Rock the Beat. Track 12 is something of a techno and rock mash up. We’re treated to a series of very upbeat/progressive synthesized sounds and on point bass. Mello never misses a chance to switch it up. At the 1:48 mark, the song sounds more purely rock as it shifts and gets more aggressive. It’s all a part of the plan. Mello comes in at 2:30 to provide lyrics. He raps on the fictional city of his inspiration, his present, and future. He even takes a shots at society’s shortcomings. Why not? That’s one of the album’s themes.
So we’ve heard Matt sing and rap quite often throughout the project. Track 13 however outdoes all the previous tracks. The song is dedicated to the Poison Jam. A gang of teenage malcontents way into horror movies. In the game they were also know to wear scary masks and have stereotypical goth like tendencies. So with that in mind he created a beat that’s sounds just like it was inspired by some old monster movies. Of course, Mello has to add his signature styling to it. He raps about the gang’s monstrous actions and sings of their…praises? Again, what’s impressive is he puts his previous lyrical/vocal work to bed.
You Like That? (Interlude)
As he keeps the narrative in mind, track 14 follows Poison Jam. You like That is actually a thematic call back to an encounter with the monstrous gang. The player finds themselves in a sewer where they must chase them. The music that accompanies this sequence is pretty unique. So Mello being inspired created something similar. Track 14 is a series of almost echoing beats. What he’s able to create is a haunting ambiance of rock for this 1 minute interlude. That’s no small task.
Tag Walls, Punch Fascists
As Hopkins has expressed, this album is very much about standing up against society’s ills. I would agree maybe now more than ever this is needed. Keeping the message strong, he composed track 15, Tag Walls, Punch Fascists. Nothing is more on point then that title. So the song itself sounds like an anthem; the kind you play during protest. It’s kind of song you use to get people excited. He keeps the excitement going with the addition of vocals slowly as it progresses. But it’s not until a little past the 1 minute mark where it becomes quite soulful. I mean you can’t expect people to feel ready to punch fascists unless the get more soul right?
Now, this song has two acts. At it’s core it’s a rock track. Act 1 is very aggressive as the tempo speeds up gradually. The bass gets progressively louder as well. You maybe wondering as to why the song is so forceful. The reason behind that goes back to JSR. When you are facing “the man”(the oppressor), the music is very heavy almost violent rock. This is to emphasize you’re up against the big bad.
Act 2 kicks in at the 3:10 mark. Mello turns the rock jam into a very melodic and serene tune. This is to offer listeners a break in the beautiful chaos if you will. The song then slowly returns to the original beat. At 4:45 things are full circle as we’re back to heavy rock. Best rock song on the album? Maybe? Best series of transitions by Mello? Also, maybe.
The last song is very up beat and pop like in nature as you can get. Uptempo piano is and lovely singing that’s right up Mello’s alley. For an outro track he couldn’t pick a better song. After bringing up the hype he gently lets us go with a smooth jam. This song also sounds like a song fit for the Love shockers from JSR. They were also the first threat you ran into as a player. So considering all the other dangers, things are very laid back. You might chill if you will. Just like his name implies, he’s keeping things Mello.
I’ve seen Mello mention on more than one occasion this album is his best work. When someone has made music for as long as him, you know that’s quite the statement. To his credit he really did meet his goal. Create an album that is a spiritual successor of Jet Set Radio’s soundtrack. Make an album just as diverse that anyone can appreciate. From a personal not, just make some of his best work to date. As a fan I can tell you he’s probably done all of this and then some.
2 Mello’s Memories of Tokyo-to can be bought via Bandcamp.
If you’d like to keep up with his music (he produces a lot!) you can follow him
If you liked what you heard, why not drop him a thank you message? Also he has a pretty impressive discography. Also, yes I will be writing more about him in the future.