Yet another alias of rapper Elliot Fresh, Zatoichi’s Ears sees the emcee/producer dive deeper into the B-movie kung-fu culture first explored in his In Syruppp split with Rambutan. Taking his name from a fictional blind masseur and blademaster featured in one of Japan’s longest-running film series, Zatoichi’s Ears provides perfect cover for Fresh to explore his love of samurai culture and obscure Japanese cinema. And just like Wu-Tang’s Shaolin-inspired debut, Cherry Red Ape Twin makes savvy use of the mythological tropes the genre provides.
In Cherry Red Ape Twin, the rapper immerses you in a shadow world of legends juxtaposed against contemporary cultural references. Opener ‘Punishment’s Hood’ brims with an unspoken menace. Accompanied by ZE’s liquid flow, the effect is simultaneously ominous and mesmerising. ‘Mothwing Cloak’, meanwhile, builds on the brooding beats with lyrical symbolism reminiscent of Ed Scissor at his most enigmatic.
Likewise, the murky instrumentals and subtle metrical beats are all part of the imagery. This is a world of traditions, myth-building and rigid discipline; three elements that lend themselves perfectly to hip hop.
OK, so he’s not the first to utilise ‘samurai cinema’ to cultivate a rap persona. Still, ZE’s lyrical precision and immaculate beats propel him beyond his peers. It might be just four songs, but Cherry Red Ape Twin is another promising step in the making of a modern legend.