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CD REVIEW

Crazy T “in to you”

by Mariko Lochridge

Japan-based American rapper Travis Tewes, who performs under the moniker Crazy T, originally planned to use kanji on the cover of his sophmore album. However, since so few young Japanese could actually read the kanji, he decided at the last minute to spell out “in to you” using the easier-to-read katakana alphabet instead.

That was one of Crazy T’s first lessons in marketing to a Japanese audience — sometimes even using the native language doesn’t guarantee getting your message across. Maybe that’s why he opted to rap almost entirely in English on “in to you,” so he could be certain the message he was trying to get across was his intended one. It seems to be working: Crazy T has netted collaborations with local rappers such as Oni, who is featured on the track “Only,” and South Korea’s DJ Shine, who makes an appearance on “John Q.”

Lyrically, “in to you” is emotionally blunt and mature. Despite the album opening and closing with short tracks that border on being cheesy, the stuff in between is anything but. Standout tracks include “Rhythm” (featuring 65Syndicate) and “Dreams.” “Rhythm” sounds as if the beat maker wanted to head into territory somewhere between Canadian singer Esthero’s downtempo style and straight up ambient easy-listening. The track flows nicely into “Dreams,” a hopeful message speaking to the youth and simultaneously to the disenfranchised office worker about choices: “I never thought I could ever do for others what other rappers do for me . . . what I do now is greater than anyone in the cube pushing paper so ask yourself if you’re happy with your life right now, so why not right now, make the change right now.”

The jolting transition from these two tracks into “John Q” interrupts the comfortable mellow vibe, but ends up providing the strongest piece on the album, with Crazy T exploring the challenges of being a minority in Japan: “They don’t want to see me vote even though this is the country I’m going to raise my kids in.” The track speaks to an issue that has been gaining momentum in the expatriate community, and it’s the kind of track you might expect from a Public Enemy album.

Despite the politics, one of the bicest things about “in to you” is the lack of grandstanding. On the other side of the spectrum, Crazy T hasn’t filled the album with a steady stream of “shout outs” to his rapper friends. Though the variety of beats on the album may throw off those listening to it straight through, it’s still good to hear an MC so determined about the future when the present seems so unstable.