DJ Chidow – 99th Street Bounce: A Future Jet Tribute (Album Review)

Around this time last year, I did a review of 2 Mello’s “Memories of Tokyo-to”, a well-crafted tribute album to the original Jet Set Radio that garnered a lot of attention for both the game and 2 Mello. This time, we’ll be looking at a new tribute album, but for Jet Set Radio Future. It’s called 99th Street Bounce, and it stems from the creative mind of DJ Chidow.

Chidow has been making music for quite a while; he started experimenting in FL Studio at the age of 5, and would use his talents to remix classic soul and funk tunes. Eventually Chidow would gravitate towards the sounds of vaporwave and future funk, and found his comfort zone. Chidow’s new direction would garner some attention; some of his bigger collaborators include synthpop duo The System, and electronic artist Jvst X. Here’s a couple of his tracks so you get a good idea of what Chidow makes:

Chidow’s remix of The System’s “You’re In My System”

With a love for early 2000s sounds, and obviously an attachment to our favorite Rudies, DJ Chidow decided to create 99th Street Bounce: A Future Jet Tribute. With the help of his producing partner, Myujikku, the pair has crafted a very interesting project that pays homage to Jet Set Radio Future’s dancier tunes. Like I did with the 2 Mello review, I’ll be comparing 99th Street Bounce to the sounds of JSRF, and seeing if it’s worth your personal airtime. We’ll also use Memories of Tokyo-to for comparison, because they’re both tribute albums, but done in very different ways. Let’s get started.

99th Street Bounce: The Essence

Right off the bat, I’d recommend listening to this as a full album rather than individual tracks. The Bandcamp listing has 12 tracks, with an additional three if you purchase the full album.DJ Chidow structured the first half of the album to flow like a DJ set. Each track builds into the next, and it’s a very seamless transition. I’m sure most JSRF fans are used to this, with the abundance of medleys you hear in the game, and it shows Chidow’s attention to detail.

In terms of sound design, 99th Street Bounce really does bounce all over the place. The Bandcamp page lists a plethora of genres, ranging from hip-hop and house music to nightcore and g-funk. There’s also no set “type” of song either; DJ Chidow will mash up multiple tracks into one piece, then entirely recompose another track, and finally make his own sound inspired by the JSRF soundtrack.

It’s a fresh and interesting approach, but what’s cool about it is that when Hideki Naganuma created the soundtrack for Jet Set Radio Future, a lot of the tracks were remixes from the original Dreamcast game. Others were entirely new compositions, filled with new samples, and obviously, we have our favorite licensed tracks of all time (HELLO ALLISON!). Some of Chidow’s material has been revamped for this project; notable examples include his two-part NiGHTS into DREAMS remix, and the track Dreamcaster. 99th Street Bounce is a collection of original tunes, remixes, and mashups, and that helps it to retain the spirit of Jet Set Radio Future.

The Tracks

Listening through the album, you can also see what sort of musical elements DJ Chidow prioritizes. Simply put, if it hits hard or hits fast, you’ll hear it on 99th Street Bounce. That being said, it’s definitely a much busier album with regards to instrumentation. This boy loves his synths, and that’s not a bad thing. The way Chidow uses them throughout the album can help create a sort of musical glue; if you listen to the remix of Richard Jacques’ “What About The Future?”, you’ll get the idea (Side note; this track is a sleeper hit):

Not all the songs are super busy though. The remixes of Fly Like A Butterfly and Teknopathic are brought to a heart-thumping speed, but they aren’t changed drastically. Both tracks get some extra drum sampling, a classic drum ‘n’ bass groove, and a couple extra goodies. Another track I like is “Rain”; I’m not sure if it’s an original track or a remix, but it’s a nice contrast to the rest of the album:

Honestly, this album reproduces the essence of JSRF very well, and hats off to DJ Chidow for making it happen.

Compared to Memories of Tokyo-to, 99th Street Bounce uses a lot of samples. Obviously, series composer Hideki Naganuma was pretty notorious for filling Jet Set Radio’s soundtracks with plenty of samples, ranging from old British TV shows, to sample records, and even hits from bigger artists. A lot of Naganuma’s sample history is easy to find online, and I’m sure it was very helpful for DJ Chidow to craft this tribute album. That being said, some of these samples are filthy. Obviously, Chidow wanted to keep the spirit of JSRF within 99th Street Bounce, and I can appreciate it when it’s simply the vocal line from a track like Fly Like A Butterfly. But at other times, it’s obvious that the sample wasn’t procured in its purest form:

Maybe Birthday Cake isn’t a fair example, because I can never decide how I feel about it. With that said, there are times where you’ll notice that certain sounds aren’t as high fidelity as everything else. Sometimes that’s a stylistic choice, and it’s a major nitpick, but when you hear it, you hear it. Also, there’s this super weird 80s TV voiceover sampled during Part 2 of the NiGHTS remix, and I’m both confused and intrigued:

The debate over samples is one that’s always going to happen. Even 2 Mello used a fair amount of Jet Set Radio samples in Memories of Tokyo-to, but he would use them carefully & contrasted it with some original vocal lines. I’m not saying DJ Chidow need to drop some rhymes to make this better, but having less emphasis on a bad sample only served to help the songs on 99th Street Bounce. I liked it when Chidow’s original ideas were emphasized, because it gave you a new audio texture to experience. It built a new layer onto the soundscape Hideki Naganuma tried to build with the Jet Set Radio soundtracks. Simply put:  Always pick your samples wisely.

99th Street Bounce: A Future Jet Tribute. Comparing it to Jet Set Radio Future is like comparing mac ‘n’ cheese. There’s a simple recipe that is beloved, and so people draw inspiration from the recipe and make their own version. If 99th Street Bounce was mac ‘n’ cheese, it would have a nice top layer of panko bread, soft macaroni noodles, and a blend of classic cheddar & mozzarella cheese. There’s also this weird blend of other stuff like nutmeg & bacon that’s good sometimes, and other times it stands out, but not in a good way. I really need to stop writing this stuff when I’m hungry.

It’s a joke, but it’s meant to show that 99th Street Bounce is a layered project. It tackles the contrast between JSRF’s soundtrack, and the new sounds that DJ Chidow creates. It’s a spin on a classic, if you will. As you dig deeper, you can tell that Chidow appreciates what Naganuma did for Jet Set Radio, styling the majority of the album to play like a DJ medley, and borrowing sounds from early 2000s dance tracks. There’s extra little goodies added into the mix as well; some songs are reimagined in a new way, thrown together with oldies to make something new. Other tracks get a simple facelift, and that’s enough to push it into the modern space. Sometimes, Chidow experiments with the ideas that Naganuma brings to the table. When it works, it works well, but when it doesn’t, it can be off-putting to the regular listener. Not all the samples are built seamlessly into their tracks; you can pick out little artifacts in a sample that were meant to be masked by different elements of the song. With that said, It’s not a major detraction from the work. 99th Street Bounce was clearly a labour of love, and it’s got enough energy to propel the ideas of Jet Set Radio.

Buy 99th Street Bounce here:

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