Diamond teeth alone cannot bequeath the title “hip-hop mogul,” so now A Bathing Ape owner Nigo has become a pop Svengali with the creation of “super group” Teriyaki Boyz. Ignore the silly album title; the Ape General called up a cadre of famous producers such as Daft Punk, DJ Shadow and Adrock to provide the beats for four of Japan’s most charismatic and least annoying Japanese MCs — Verbal from M-Flo, Ryo-Z and Ilmari from Rip Slyme and Wise from Kaze no Hito.
Theoretically this should be A Best of All Possible Japanese Hip-Hop, but our four MC heroes struggle to pull off the tough-guy bravado required by the (expensive) imported soundtrack. On the Neptunes-produced “Cho Large,” Pharrell drops himself in to boast “We’ve got big jewels / big cars / big watch with a pair of Bape stars.” Maybe this is true for Pharrell, but I can’t imagine the Rip Slyme guys are driving Benzes on their measly stipends. The sun shines more brightly on the Boyz, however, when their sing-song rhymes match up with the playful old-school beats of Cut Chemist on “School of Rock” and “moon the world,” Cornelius’ bizarre deconstruction of mid-’80s Michael Jackson. And just when you’re getting bored with all the sample-heavy backpack hip-hop, Just Blaze’s tight and minimal “Konya wa Baggy Pants” gives the album some much needed edge.
No one ever gives their 100 percent on these superstar comps, and “Beef or Chicken” suffers from a similar fate. But, ultimately, there’s something adequately engaging and exciting about the cross-continental possibilities contained within.