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[Review] SKY-HI mixes hip-hop, ska, alternative sounds on jubilant “Snatchaway”

Though their music differs vastly in sound, I like to think of AAA as J-pop’s answer to Big Bang. AAA’s members form a uniquely amazing unit when put together, but are just as strong as soloists pursuing their own musical interests. For Hidaka Mitsuhiro, that takes the form of a genre-bending brand of pop-infused hip-hop under the moniker SKY-HI. His solo career has been a prolific one, and always inventive. But for me, he’s at his best when going straight for the pop jugular. That approach worked wonders for 2016’s outstanding Double Down, and new single “Snatchaway” is nearly as good.

SKY-HI’s music has always featured a strong funk influence, but it feels like he’s really leaning into that sound lately. “Snatchaway” is built on chugging rhythm guitar and a bright, punchy brass section. It features one of the most instant choruses of his career — an utterly jubilant hook that’s equal parts celebratory and swagger. The robust instrumental feels refreshingly alive, devoid of the kind of electronic loops and samples that have become so representative of modern pop.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about SKY-HI’s brand of hip-hop is that it’s not designed to simply pump himself up as some sort of tough badass. “Snatchaway”, like so many of his singles, digs deep from genres as disparate as ska and alternative rock. His unique vocal tone will always be an acquired taste, but it matches the song’s brash energy to a tee. When he unleashes that dizzying, rapid-fire bridge just before the final chorus, it’s a moment worth waiting for. This kind of freewheeling intensity feels blissfully organic, in service to a track that’s just as visceral.

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