Hip-hop instrumentals were just backing tracks in search of a rapper until DJ Krush and his Mo’ Wax label mate DJ Shadow showed how much you could do when you ditched the vocals and focused on the breaks. Although Shadow’s 1996 “Endtroducing…..” is the album most people remember now, it was Krush’s “Strictly Turntablized,” released two years earlier, that carved a space for instrumental hip-hop as a distinct genre.

Krush — real name Hideaki Ishi — was already a well-known figure on the Japanese hip-hop scene when he launched his solo career in the early 1990s, following the dissolution of the short-lived but influential Krush Posse. While he has retained a lingering affection for old-school boom-bap and continues to use turntables as his principal instrument, his productions have grown increasingly refined over the years, and not always in a good way.

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