Even the most optimistic critic could be excused for approaching with trepidation the major-label debut for one of only a handful of domestic female rappers. But fears that 24-year-old Coma-Chi is about to deliver a pale imitation of a genre exhausted in the early 2000s by the likes of Missy Elliott and Eve are nixed within the explosive first two tracks of “Red Naked.”
The swirling opening to “Himitsu” (“Secret”) is a regal introduction that swiftly switches tone to dynamic electro beats. Coma-Chi’s sweet and lush voice first announces her arrival before delivering a commanding mix of Japanese and English rhymes. Most importantly, the production on “Himitsu,” like the baiting “Name Tag” that follows, shows a clear sense of melody and a debt to pop music that echoes Kanye West.
Rarely do debuts in any genre come as fully formed as “Red Naked,” juxtaposing the artful bare-bones rhymes of “Me & My Kicks” with the trance-pop of “Material World.” It may not be perfect — the album’s intro seems a dispensable afterthought, and while “Perfect Angel” showcases Coma-Chi’s admirable singing voice, it’s a forced J-pop ballad well out of place here. In the small world of Japanese female rappers, though, it will take considerable talent to top it.