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Soulhead

A vital part of the blossoming Japanese urban contemporary scene of the 2000s, the sister duo Soulhead scored numerous Top Ten hits (mostly albums, not singles) with their blend of hip-hop, soul, funk, dancehall, and R&B. The band is known for its proficiency in English; both members are also sought-after sound producers.

The sisters Yoshika (born 1978) and Tsugumi (1981) grew up on the Northern island of Hokkaido on a diet of classical music and enka (Japanese traditional pop), but fell in love with hip-hop in high school, thanks to artists such as Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. The girls began to perform in 2001 under the name Batti Baas, and released their first record, the vinyl single "Lovin' You" (a cover of Minnie Riperton's 1975 standard) the same year. The single was a limited release with Aaron Blackmon as a guest. Another Batti Baas single, "Inside Out." came out in 2002 on Tokuma, but then the band, which was renamed Soulhead, was snatched by Sony Music. The label sent both girls to Australia and New Zealand for a year to improve their English, giving them an advantage over their Japanese peers. It worked: although neither the debut single "Step to the New World" (2003) nor its two follow-ups managed to climb out of the lower half of the Top 40, their first full-length, Oh My Sister (2003) charged into the Top Three and shifted 214,000 units. At that time, Yoshika began to produce other artists, working with Sowelu, Crystal Kay, and Ken Hirai. Soon, Tsugumi joined her, and Soulhead would go on to collaborate with the sound producing team Octopussy on records by Hirai Ken, Chemistry, and Koda Kumi. The girls didn't quit their own music careers, though: their second album, Braided hit number four in 2004 and sold almost 140,000 copies, and 2006's Naked reached number five. The list of guests for the band's 2005-2006 singles included Mark De Clive-Lowe, Kenny Dope, and Koda Kumi. Soulhead slowed down in the late 2000s, only releasing the Best of Soulhead (2007), along with several singles and remix CDs, and concentrating on production work, but their fourth, eponymous album was slated for February 2010 on Avex Trax, which Soulhead had moved to in 2009. ~ Alexey Eremenko
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