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Premier Japanese hip-hop group Rip Slyme got their start in 1994 when Ryo-Z and Ilmari began writing together for fun. As the duo became more ambitious, they added their rocker pal Pes to the lineup and soon were winning accolades in amateur rapping contests. With some recognition under their belts, Rip Slyme released their first album, Lips Rhyme, in 1995, and soon after added DJ Fumiya to their ranks. After some touring and studio experimentation the group released album number two, Talkin' Cheap, in 1998. As their popularity grew in Japan, the boys released a string of indie singles of increasingly hit-worthy material (notably, their collaborations with Fantastic Plastic Machine Underline No. 5 and Mata au Himade), leading to serious interest on the part of mega-label Warner. By 2000, Warner signed the band and on March 22, 2001, their first major single for the label, "Stepper's Delight," was released. By 2002, their popularity was reaching mega proportions and saw the boys winning both the Best New Artist and Best Hip-Hop Group distinctions at that year's MTV Japan Video Music Awards. Riding on that career-topping high, Rip Slyme unleashed their giant-budgeted Tokyo Classic album later that year — becoming Japan's first million-selling hip-hop group in the process. More MTV awards followed and the band dominated the hip-hop scene in its homeland for the next several years, releasing four massively popular full-length albums, as well as a number of singles and collaborations. At the end of 2005 DJ Fumiya was out of the performance picture due to illness (with fellow hip-hopper DJ Soma filling in on subsequent Rip Slyme concert appearances), but he was back on board for 2006's ultra-popular Epoch album and for its follow-up, Funfair, in 2007. ~ J. Scott McClintock, Rovi