Review: Meliyas♀ – MAJO LP

Meliyas♀ is an underground rapper from Kanagawa who first appeared in the music world as the most interesting member of the hip-hop trio C.R.E.A.M SODAZ, releasing her solo effort MAJO EP (WITCH EP) in 2012. Despite her talent, she passed …
By Sean Mulrine

Meliyas♀ is an underground rapper from Kanagawa who first appeared in the music world as the most interesting member of the hip-hop trio C.R.E.A.M SODAZ, releasing her solo effort MAJO EP (WITCH EP) in 2012. Despite her talent, she passed by relatively unnoticed by the world at large until her project with long-time friend Gonchi, the electro-rap unit Charisma.com, blew up thanks to the combination of Meliyas♀’ venomous voice and the slick dance beats courtesy of DJ Gonchi. Juggling her career as MC Itsuka of Charisma.com and her day job as an office worker, her latest decision has been to bring back her solo project as Meliyas♀ on top of it all. And true to her word, she’s back once again with the enormous 19-track limited release MAJO LP, carrying on right from where she left off.

Though she’s known first and foremost for fronting Charisma.com and leading their shiny electronic sound, her solo material is in a classic old-school hip-hop style, with tracks produced by former C.R.E.A.M SODAZ member SHUSUI. Drawing from all kinds of sound sources, his beats sound like the results of countless hours spent crate-digging and sampling everything from funk to bhangra.

The very first track is an introduction which features vocal samples warning the listener of witches, danger and destruction (oddly enough, there are a few clips of Emimem in there too.) Indeed, MAJO LP boasts plenty of tracks where Meliyas♀ displays her famous aggression, which is inspired in part by her tedious office job. The ferocious Punjabi-inspired “Meli-Meli” features a call to “destroy everything, destroy everybody”, which sounds fitting enough for the LP’s titular witch, and in “Miteiru Zo” (I’m Watching You) she raps about murder by poisoned apple and tearing out hearts. But the same track is also an example of how this album lets her showcase a sense of humour – guest rapper Potemkin follows up Meliyas♀’ verse with a similar one about his obsession with one girl’s underwear (“Satin fabric, pink in colour, patterned with flowers, fairytale chic”) and he eventually ends up stealing them from her home as Meliyas♀’ line “I wanna hold your heart in this right hand of mine” becomes “I wanna hold your panties in this right hand of mine” right before some comical whooping. Also particularly engaging is the way she hollers freakishly at the beginning of “Tsukuba Route” (dedicated fans will recognise the title’s throwback to “TSUKUMO ROUTE”, the intro to C.R.E.A.M SODAZ’ 2011 album Kissa DARK SIDE) before letting it blow up into a classic groove.

But as much as Meliyas♀ is famous for tracks that combine lyrical poison, wit, and deep grooves, no matter the genre, the biggest strength of MAJO LP is that it lets her reveal a talent for more delicate areas as well. Several tracks have her teaming up with various female vocalists she respects, like the langorous trip-hop-laced “Pokari” (featuring singer Koizumi Karin) and “Breaks” (with SHIZUKA). Her verses contrast with their melodies perfectly and it’s this kind of track that brings a more mature feeling to the album as a whole.

The second half of the LP is where this shift in mood really takes the stage. The heady “Kuchi-Yakusoku Tega” (A Note Of A Spoken Promise) stands out, too, for its melodic hook sung by Meliyas♀ herself and its beat that flirts with the same sound world explored in Boards of Canada’s album The Campfire Headphase. “0ro9” is perhaps the album’s most strikingly beautiful track, based on sampled strings looped in such a way that their grand emotional climax is withheld from the listener throughout the majority of the piece, but when it comes it’s hugely rewarding. The talented guest vocalist from BAMBOO joins in: “Baby, this is the last thing I can do for you now, this eventful song […] Baby, this will be the last regretful song for you and me” she sings, and her classic R&B vocals give “0ro9” a sense of melancholy that would never have been expected from a Meliyas♀ release.

The biggest problem with the MAJO LP is that there are so many tracks that a few of them feel forgettable in comparison to the standout numbers, so it really takes several listens to be able to absorb it all. The other problem is that it was released only to a select group of 500 people, which means that it likely won’t earn the recognition it merits as one of 2014’s strongest hip-hop releases so far. In the same way, it shows listeners a fully-formed, deep and three-dimensional Meliyas♀ (lacking in projects like C.R.E.A.M SODAZ and Charisma.com) who will ultimately be overlooked for this reason . But for those people who were able to get their hands on a copy, this will almost certainly be considered some of the artist’s finest work.

MAJO LP was released to five hundred people through the official Meliyas♀ website, http://meliyas.jp