When a traffic accident on Feb. 26, 2010, claimed the life of independent hip-hop auteur Jun Seba, who recorded and DJed under the name Nujabes, even some of his closest collaborators didn't find out until a few weeks later. The Japanese rapper Shingo Annen, better known by his professional name Shing02, was among the first to break the news, in a blog post published March 17. Paying tribute to Seba, he said that he'd unwittingly been leaving the producer voice mail messages over the previous days, trying to arrange a studio date.

Throughout his career, Seba had been a reluctant public figure, forever working to ensure that the focus remained squarely on his music. In a genre famous for its braggadocio, he was unusually private; he avoided interviews and promotional activities, and photos were so scarce that many of his fans weren't even sure what he looked like.

"Please just remember, that was all by design," says "Fat Jon" Marshall, producer and MC with the Cincinnati hip-hop crew Five Deez, and a close friend and collaborator. "Nujabes really didn't want people to know him like that."