Us3’s fifth album Schizophonic sees producer Geoff Wilkinson’s rolling cast of rappers and musicians returning to the task of fitting the pieces of the jazz and hip-hop puzzle into one kaleidoscopic whole.
Building on the group’s mammoth 50-date/14-country European tour last year, the sound of ‘Schizophonic’ is a lively, raucous and uptempo affair with a heavy emphasis on live playing married to crunchy hip-hop beats. The album features two new rappers, Akil Dasan and Gaston, both of whom Geoff found at New York’s legendary underground hangout the Nuyorican Poets Café. Akil’s rhythmical mastery is put to the test on a variety of beats ranging from straight-up hip-hop to Brazilian sambas to straight-ahead jazz breaks. Gaston specialises in an intricate twisting wordplay that’s guaranteed to have you laughing hard, scratching your head, and snapping your neck all in the same breath.
All members of the Us3 live band are also featured, including the blistering trumpet of Chris Storr, the soaring saxophone stylings of Ed Jones, the funky muscle of double bass player “Level” Neville Malcolm, and the unique turntable mastery of DJ First Rate. Mike Gorman, Sean Hargreaves and John Crawford take turns at the pianists chair, while (60 year-old!) newcomer Ernie Cranenburgh lays down some truly beautiful jazz guitar.
‘Schizophonic’ bounces from the Brazilian samba school sampling ‘Kick This’, to the lyrical hip-hop sarcasm of ‘Huff & Puff’, through the 60s soul-jazz vibe of ‘Girls U Like’, to the furious jazz drums & Monk-like piano of ‘Get Busy’. Gaston recounts a desperate tale of child abuse in ‘Don’t Even Ask’ complimented by the delicate brushes, moody piano and brooding horns. And if you came to dance flip to the 21st century bossa groove of ‘Much 2 Much’. Schizo indeed.
Akil Dasan describes himself as an African-Judaic blend of multiple ethnicities and cultures, citing Stevie Wonder, The Roots, D’Angelo & Mos Def as major influences. An accomplished freestyler and musician (he plays guitar, keyboards and drums), Akil studied music and creative writing at Columbia University. Born & raised in Philadelphia he now resides in NYC. Eagle-eyed TV viewers will have spotted him last year on Missy Elliott’s “Road To Stardom” talent competition. Remember his name.
Gaston (alongside his twin brother Wiseguy) hosts the Words showcase & open mic sessions at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York. A veteran of NYC’s underground hip-hop circuit, he has flexed his verbal dexterity alongside an entire who’s who of rap, exercising his razor sharp freestyle wit on many radio shows including Stretch Armstrong, Night Train, Underground Railroad, and WNYU.
The 8-piece live Us3 band will be touring again throughout 2006. Don’t miss them.
‘Schizophonic’. Multiple musical personalities have never been so much fun.