Read The 405's Guide to J-pop for more information. It's part of our J-pop week.

One of the more interesting developments in the Japanese music scene over the last ten years has been the rise of "netlabels." They are online-only music imprints offering bedroom artists of all stripes a chance to release their sounds digitally... usually for free and just a "download" button click away. Over the past ten years, some of the most forward-thinking electronic songs in the country have popped up as .ZIP files on these sites, and recently these web-based outfits have grown in national prominence.

Yusuke Kawai, who records under the name Tofubeats, has been a mainstay in the netlabel community since the start. And now, he's become the online world's ambassador to mainstream J-pop.

After spending most of his junior-high-school years playing in bands, the Kobe-born Kawai developed an interest in hip-hop and started learning how to producer electronic music. He found a community of people online just like him, sharing tracks and collaborating via popular Japanese message boards. He soon hooked up with Maltine Records, Japan's best-known netlabel, where he released a handful of albums and EPs under the name DJ Newtown.

Kawai's DJ Newtown work leaned towards dance music, often built around chopped-up vocals (and, like in the above track, often sampled from anime). His Tofubeats project, meanwhile, found him branching out further - besides producing the music, he started rapping (often with his voice soaked in Auto-tune) and inviting others to jump on his songs. Whereas DJ Newtown allowed him to slide into the faceless producer role, Tofubeats allowed Kawai to flex his personality more.

Tofubeats' developed a signature sound - spliced-up voices, digitally manipulated vocals, disco-and-hip-hop-influenced beats - and landed on a major label. Kawai has since worked on producing music for other pop groups - but he's been pushed himself, too. Last year, he released his debut album Lost Decade, an all-over-the-place collection where he applied his production style to rap, pop, acid house and more. It's a great album also signaling a change in how music is listened to/discovered - it's the sound of a mind exposed to a wide variety of sounds via the Internet, and blurring them all together.

Lately, Tofubeats has gone a bit more old school, at least with who he collaborates with. His first major single, last year's 'Don't Stop The Music', found him collaborating with singer Chisato Moritaka, a J-pop star whose peak was in the '80s. This past month, Kawai worked with the comedian and singer Takashi Fujii on 'Disco No Kamisama', a slinky, at-times-delirious dance number.

As his profile grows, Kawai's most important role will be being the face of netlabel culture in Japan. There are many talented producers emerging from the online scene - many of whom are starting to create tracks for major-label artists - yet few are able to be camera-ready stars like Kawai himself. His music, capturing everything great about the Japan's internet music world, hints at all sorts of new possibilities for J-pop in the future.