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Us3 Run.stop.think N/A • 2009

Over fifteen years ago, Us3’s 'Cantaloop' became a smash hit single and made 'Hand On The Torch', the album it appeared on, Blue Note’s first platinum selling album in the US. The single still remains essential regarding the impact the album had on hip-hop. A hip-hop record went platinum on an essential jazz label and for the first time, there was no hassle about any sample clearances.

When we look at the recurrences of the project (because of the various shifts of music personnel this is more of a project) then you have three constants: 1) there’s a duo of young, talented rappers, yet to break through, 2) there’s jazz, specifically with a pre-60’s flavour, and 3) there’s Geoff Wilkinson, the London-based producer behind this project. Again, on this album all characteristics return. There’s 20-year old Brook Yung, only known as a spoken word artist in the US (which is another definition for 'yet to break through', ps: on this record, he raps), and there’s 23-year old Sene, who worked with Blu on a European label (which is another definition for 'yet to break through'). Once again, the album is packed with old school jazz mixed with drums and kicks. And yes, Geoff Wilkinson is once again the brains behind this release. Since 2001, Wilkinson stopped sampling and went for live instrumentation, something that perfectly suits Us3, because of the amount of jazz musicians that participate and their famous reputation of live performing.

Eloquently Brook Yung puts his poetry into raps and with a raw, surprisingly mature and realistic view. 'My whole life is a bungee jump, with no rope, I’m living to die, baby, if you don’t love me, one, I’m still playing the game with no forfeit cause at the end I gotta lay in my own coffin', he raps on the introspective 'Keep Movin' while on 'Love Of My Life' he proves his stylistic skills ('you are the new chapter, my dear, my hear, and hereafter, my ear, my life and my laughter'), again referring to the same kind of escapism ('this cruel world is so better when I’m living in it with you, girl') he portrayed on the raw, street-credible 'Gotta Get Outta Here' (with some Portishead-like scratching at the end).

In the meanwhile raw early-nineties boombap ('From The Streets'), funky late-seventies keyboards ('Don’t Waste Your Life') and Latin jazz ('I Let Em Know') make a various sound setting for both rappers, who join each other once, on the playful, b-boyish 'She’s With Me', where the two emcees bug over the same girl. The songs with Sene are clearly the lighter part of the album, whereas he raps about partying, chasing girls, addin a club touch even to the album. 'Excuse me if I forgot to mention that your slick thick frame got me standing at attention', he teases on 'Can I Get It?', while he adds a prevention line 'if a rubber don’t cover, sorry, but I can’t go' turning it into the hilarious and catchy 'hat game tight like Slick Rick’s Kangol, I’ve seen how far this ish can go'.

Both Brook Yung and Sene fit well in this musically rich endeavour. Some beats are hard to tackle, but both do well at it, with a smooth, variable flow and creative, mature lyricism, their skills certainly don’t reveal their young age. Production-wise Wilkinson created a well-knitted, orchestrated album with a variety of sounds that do reveal his experience in the music game, along with a profound love for hip-hop, brought to the listener from a jazz point-of-view.


POSTED ON 06|25|2009 by cpf

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