Because The Bronx, New York is the birthplace of Hip-Hop, most people in The States have it relatively good when it comes to purchasing music, especially hard copies. However, one of the largest markets for music (particularly Hip-Hop) outside of the U.S. is the Asian country of Japan.
That the economics involved in manufacturing, producing and distributing an album in Japan can sometimes cost the local buyer up to 30-40% more than an imported product.
By jacking the price up, the Japanese spend more money to hear music from their area. Many local stores try innovative tricks to promote buying locally like ordering native music from Japanese labels that may include bonus tracks at the end of an album that did not appear on the U.S. version. This gives the more expensive version of the album a little more content for your buck.
Now these bonus tracks aren’t always exclusive as they tell you. These songs are sometimes packaged on to other soundtracks, B-side collections and promotional projects. Sometimes, the bonus tracks aren’t even that great. Many of these “exclusive bonus tracks” sound like they came from the cutting room floor and were left off the album for a reason.
But some are hidden gems and become favorites of DJs who still loves the act of digging in the crates. Check out some of these hidden joints.
This was included on the Japanese version of 2003’s The Ownerz along with another track called “Tha Squeeze”. “Tha Squeeze” ended up making it’s way on to the Training Day Soundtrack which is fitting as it is basically a police corruption anthem and “The Natural” was used as the B-side to the “Skills” 12-inch single. It is certainly up to scratch with the rest of the album with the hard drums and in your face samples of DJ Premier muscling their way underneath Guru’s monotonous yet infectious vocals and content wise it certainly fits the concept of the record well enough. No one knows for sure exactly why it was left off, but this project was worth being salvage.
The Japanese are not the only industry that does this type of packaging. On the UK pressing of their third album Getback, Little Brother takes us old school. Mr Porter of D-12 comes through with an easy listening jazzy instrumental for Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh to spit their relaxed verses on and the hook is provided by Tone Trezure making it a really enjoyable song for fans of soulful laid back Hip-Hop.
Although it wasn’t included on the physical U.S. version of Before I Self Destruct it was included on the Japanese version ( as well as the iTunes version). 50 liked it enough to make a video. A light-hearted tongue in cheek track that shows the “How To Rob” humor that 50 was known for coming up, definitely refreshing and worth checking out.
This track technically isn’t a “bonus track.” Instead it is a Japanese released an exclusive record. In the 90’s releasing a single on vinyl was the only way to get it to mixtape and club DJ’s and was the premier way of breaking new tunes and expanding an artists name. What better way to break into a different market than by getting one of their native beat makers, the ever-talented Tokyo native DJ Celory to remix the title track of O.C.‘s “Word…Life.”
Released 2 years after the original, this remix is everything a remix should be: it sounds different yet not out of place. An absolute banger that only crate diggers in Japan can be lucky enough to find.
“Check The Rhime” is one of A Tribe Called Quest‘s most popular singles. The jazzy original is a highlight on the group’s classic The Low End Theory album. This particular remix found on the Japanese version of the import, was also included on the groups 1992 B-sides compilation album Revised Quest For The Seasoned Traveller. Although its not as iconic as the original (but there isn’t much that is), it’s still a fresh look at an old classic if you’re just coming across it and lets be honest, any Tribe is good Tribe. “So play the resurrector and give the dead some life” RIP Phife.
Kanye West – “Bittersweet Poetry”
Although Graduation had 2 bonus tracks on the Japanese version – the other track “Goodnight” that featured Mos Def was also available on the Australian, UK and iTunes versions, “Bittersweet Poetry” was featured exclusively on its Japanese counterpart. Featuring John Mayer on the hook, the song is an arrogant and emotional breakup ballad that really conveys the situation of loving and hating someone at the same time. Perhaps not sonically as strong as the rest of the record, there is something special about a guy that spills his heart out over his own beats and this track is a worthy edition to the album.
Honorable mentions go to Nas – “The Don” (Don Dada Remix), Beastie Boys – “RRNN” (Straight Outta Shibuya) and the 12” single version of Big L, Lord Finesse, AG & Fat Joe – “All Love” that had the B-side “I Flip Styles” that even featured the lyric sheet in Japanese.