For Samurai Champloo, Masafumi Takada crafted a score mainly composed of instrumental hip-hop backing tracks. However, his full ambition wasn't entirely realized given limitations in the length and elaboration of tracks imposed by the game. For a pre-order bonus for the game, Takada offered listeners with the Samurai Champloo Rhythm Track CD that served two purposes. One was to fulfil the greater ambition behind the original score by extending and remixing a selection of favourites. The other was to provide some rhythm tracks to rap too. But as stand-alone listening, is it worthwhile?
The album opens with an extended remix of one of the most beautiful themes from the original score, "At the End of the Journey". The arrangement captures what was good about the original with its soulful piano work and soothing hip-hop beats. However, it also elaborates on the original ideas more and offers even richer soundscapes. The final result is meditative and timeless.
"Six of One and a Half Dozen of the Other" is fascinating since it builds upon the original's 45 seconds of generic beats to provide an eight minute session. Some parts are highly repetitive and the subtitle 'unresolved mix' often seems apt. However, there are major contrasts in the punctuation throughout and an overall feeling of building towards something. It's definitely more of a rhythm track to rap to than a track someone would choose to listen to on a stand-alone basis though.
Those looking for more surreal and edgy rhythm tracks will find it in "Strange Flower". The whole track exudes that feel of being in some alternative urban club at the end of a strange night. It's very well mixed and pretty enjoyable overall. Meanwhile "Sound Business" gives the impression of being more seedy outlet with its phat bass and minimal treble frills. It's definitely among the weakest additions to the album, but is still probably acceptable for rapping to.
The most ambitious addition to the album is "100 Stars DX RX-Ver S.P.L." This 20 minute remix blends the elating sounds of anthemic trance music with influences from old-school music. Whether listeners are looking for strong melodies, pumping beats, or just pleasant timbres, this track should provide it in excess. It certainly didn't require its extended track time, but the focal material is good enough to be repeated and there is still a decent amount of contrast. My recommendation? Just turn off the CD after eight minutes or so.
The Samurai Champloo Rhythm Track CD is an interesting reflection on Masafumi Takada's broader musical intention while creating the Samurai Champloo score. It's clear he intended to make a more substantial experiment in the realms of hip-hop beats and modern genres in the main soundtrack, but was faced with obvious limitations. That said, a lot of the tracks here were created to be a rhythm track for rapping rather than for stand-alone listening. Regardless, it's still an interesting and potentially useful pre-order bonus.