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Tom Smith on the hip-hop star of Bleach 13

Forget everything that you think you know about hip hop. Diggy MO’ and his boys at SOUL’d OUT throw the genre on its head. They list their influences to include everything from the names you’d expect, like Nas, Lauryn Hill and Mary J.Blige, to some you might not; such as The Who, The Doors and Japan’s own pop legends, Southern All Stars.

It’s that kind of diversity that has landed the trio with a string of hit singles and four albums in Japan’s top ten. They even had a track fittingly used as in the Japanese version of The Boondocks, a fantastic American animation inspired by anime and the mixing of cultures. What a better mix than a Japanese band producing tunes in the style of a predominantly western music genre? That was part of group’s appeal; it was hip hop, but distinctly Japanese in flavour.

In 2008, SOUL’d OUT frontman and lead MC Diggy MO’ announced that he would launch a solo career. Mr. MO’ had had a long history with music, growing up with the classics (proper classics; Mozart, Chopin and chums) and being in several bands through high school, the solo venture would allow him to explore even more of his diverse sources of musical influence.

The first track he unleashed was Bakusou Yuma Uta, tied in with the release of Soul Eater. The single featured as the anime’s third ending theme, and managed to peak into sixteenth position in the weekly singles chart. The single was a funky dance number, with all the cheese of the nineties (despite it being 2008…) combined with classical strings, a bouncy bass line and the word ‘brrrrah’ repeated throughout in the style of a non-threatening gangster.

Diggy dabbled with solo life for a while before briefly concluding it with the release of STAY BEAUTIFUL.  He would end the same way he started by also linking this track with anime. This time with Bleach, having the song featured as the series’ 23rd ending theme (episodes 266-278, including in Manga’s release of Bleach Complete Series 13).

This track featured a much heavier dance beat than his prior releases, and married it with a catchy, upbeat and easy-to-sing English chorus which actually fitted the mood of Bleach pretty well.

At this point, it would be my honour to throw down a link to STAY BEAUTIFUL’s music video so we can all have a listen. Unfortunately, the license holders in Japan have been a bit overzealous with copyright and removed any evidence of its existence from YouTube, along with every other digital service outside of Japan. You’ll just have to get yourself a copy of Bleach 13 to have a listen – or find the track through other means…

With it being the season of goodwill, one Diggy MO’ track has managed to slip through and make itself available here – legally! It’s called Christmas Dream, and it’s out now on iTunes – but you’re not allowed to see the music video. You are, however, allowed to see this monstrosity, which marked the return of his solo career in 2014 under an indie label:

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Bleach Complete Series 13 is out now on UK DVD courtesy of Manga Entertainment.

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