Us3 leapt out of the gate in 1993 with a confident, passionate and edgy vision that combined conscious hip-hop with performances by live jazz musicians, cemented together with a wealth of samples from Blue Note Records, its label at the time. The result was the group's landmark debut album Hand on the Torch and its worldwide hit single "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)."
Twenty years later, Us3, led by co-founder and bandleader Geoff Wilkinson, are readying their 9th album release, The Third Way. The latest disc harkens back to Hand on the Torch, explains Wilkinson, and represents a satisfying bookend to the first Us3 album. "I've used some classic jazz tracks as the basis for some of the songs – similar to what I did on Hand On The Torch (albeit this time with replayed "interpolations" rather than using samples). It's the follow up album I never made at the time." The album's MC responsibilities are shared by a trio of rappers drawn from across Us3's history, including Tukka, KCB and Akil Dasan.
Wilkinson recreates portions of classic jazz tracks, including Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," and Horace Silver's "Nutville." He chose this approach so he could integrate the essence of some of the jazz pieces with greater flexibility than he'd get using samples. By going with interpolations, Wilkinson was able to weave them into the fabric of the tracks in a more organic way, so more attention is focused on the song as a whole, rather than its constituent parts.
The album's creative process follows Us3 tradition, shifting from exploratory, directional underpinnings into the universe of trial and error to determine each piece's final shape. "I always make a lot more tracks than I actually need for an album, and often end up going back to previously-discarded tracks and revisiting them," says Wilkinson. "'I Want One of Those' and 'I'm Goin' (Come Along)' were both tracks that started life several years ago and have been resurrected and reworked. My tracks tend to evolve from the rhythm up. I always try to maintain a variety of rhythms, tempos, arrangements, and instrumentation across an album. That can be a challenge for the rappers, but I think it inspires them to rise up to it."
On the album's three wordsmiths, they all share a drive to rise far above the bling and boasting of so many ultra-shallow MCs. "Tukka brought a unique energy to the first album," says Wilkinson. "I knew it was unusual to have a reggae voice mixing it up with jazz and hip-hop. That was something I hadn't done since the first album, so it was definitely overdue. KCB was featured on Broadway & 52nd, and toured extensively with the live band in the early '90s. Akil has been a rock in the Us3 band since 2006. He previously appeared on Schizophonic and Say What!?, and is a lyrical monster. These are all guys whose work with Us3 I admired. I had also travelled the world with all of them, experiencing many crazy things on tour together!"
On a more reflective note, "What Would You Do?" offers existentialist viewpoints from all three MCs. The song is rooted in Wilkinson's grief over his mother's passing in 2012. "Losing the woman that brought you into the world is a unique thing," says Wilkinson. "It only happens once, and it has somehow made life more urgent for me. Other members of the live band have lost family, and it sparked a conversation with the rappers in which I asked the question, 'If it was your last day on Earth, what would you do?' All three wrote their verses separately and it was interesting to see the similarities in their rhymes."
Us3 has evolved more and more towards a live musician-driven format over the years, incorporated an incredible diversity of MCs and lyrical content, and has toured extensively, enthralling audiences across the globe. It's one of the few practitioners, and arguably the leading exponent, of the art of band-driven hip-hop performance.
But even with two decades of innovation behind it, there's no escaping the fact that the original Hand on the Torch album continues to represent a hip-hop touchstone for a generation. To mark the 20th anniversary of Us3's platinum-certified 1993 album, Blue Note are reissuing the album with a 2CD remastered deluxe edition on September 17.
"One of the best things my mum used to say was 'Life is a journey, not a destination,'" says Wilkinson. "I think that's so relevant to the Us3 story. It has been a bumpy road at times business-wise, but my enthusiasm and inquisitive nature have led me along many rewarding musical paths—and I'm confident there are more to come."
Audio: Konstant33n - "TMT (a Tribute to Floyd Mayweather)"
Courtesy Pub for Indie.
Konstant33n, the artist formally known as Kidd Dynamiite, wrote this song as an anthem and tribute for Boxing Legend- Floyd Mayweather. The song reflects Konstant33n's respect for Mayweather's mental and physical stamina.
Tanya Morgan Presents...Rubber Souls Bands + Rubber Souls Deluxe Package
Courtesy Ballin PR.
TANYA MORGAN PRESENTS...RUBBER SOULS BANDS + RUBBER SOULS DELUXE PACKAGE (Featuring New Single "More" ft. Rocki Evans of CharlieRED)
Two weeks away from the release of Tanya Morgan's newest LP Rubber Souls, Donwill adds a new job to his resume: Rubber-Band salesman? Check out the commercial for Rubber Souls bands and stay tuned to the end for a preview of Tanya Morgan's new record, "More" feat. Rocki Evans of CharlieRED (Prod. by 6th Sense).
After only five weeks in rotation, Gettin’ Gatsby, the concept album combining the collective efforts of Buffalo-bred rapper Mad Dukez, and Toronto producer Fresh Kils has marched up the charts in both the US and Canada - hitting #5 on CMJ Charts and #2 on Earshot Charts this week.
Their debut album pays homage to the glory days of the roaring twenties, and seamlessly blends the bitingly clever foreground of modern wordplay with classic yet innovative smooth and soulful background beats, which includes the #1 hit single “Bootleg Bartenders.”
Gettin' Gatsby is available now on Deep Thinka Records/DTR45 in digital, CD and 12" vinyl formats, and finds this unique pairing at their very best: smooth, energetic flows eloquently tap dancing over completely original golden era hip hop inspired beats. Find it on iTunes, Amazon or any of your finer outlets, and be sure to catch Mad Dukez and Fresh Kils live on tour in a town near you.
Gettin' Gatsby Tour Dates
8/30 Rochester NY, @ Dub Land Underground
8/30 Toronto, ON @ Rivoli
8/31 Buffalo, NY @ Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar
9/2 Boston, MA @ The Church
9/4 Portland, ME @ The Big Easy
9/5 Long Island City, NY @ Hell Gate Social
9/6 Westerly, RI @ The Malted Barley Bar
9/7 Freeport, NY @ Jeremy's Ale House
9/11 Kansas City, MO @ Czar Bar
9/12 La Crosse, WI @ The Warehouse
9/13 Green Bay, WI @ JDs Bar
9/14 St. Louis, MO @ The Demo
9/15 Dayton, OH @ One Eyed Jacks [w/ the Alkaholiks]
9/16 Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theatre
9/18 Denver, CO @ Moon Room
9/19 Jackson, WY @ TBA
9/20 Boise, ID @ The Shredder [w/ Coolzey]
9/21 Great Falls, MT @ Machinery Row
9/22 Moscow, ID @ John's Alley
9/23 Salt Lake City, UT @ Woodshed
9/24 Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
9/26 Reno, NV @ Shea's Tavern
9/29 San Francisco, CA @ Showdown
9/30 Pasadena, CA @ Old Town Pub
10/1 Lancaster, CA @ Industry Theatre
10/3 Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
10/4 Las Cruces, NM @ TBA
10/5 San Marcos, TX @ TBA [w/ p-teK]
10/6 Austin, TX @ Beerland [w/ p-teK]
10/7 Denton, TX @ Andy's Bar [w/ p-teK]
10/8 Jackson, MS @ Sneaky Beans
10/9 Knoxville, TN @ Long Branch Saloon
10/10 Evansville, IN @ PG
10/11 Columbus, OH @ Victory's Live
10/12 Buffalo, NY @ Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar [w/ Steddy P & DJ Mahf]
Audio: Cee & Dr. MaD - Steps To The Peak (EP RELEASE)
Courtesy The Movement Fam.
We're nervous as hell. It's finally here. All year we've been working towards this project, and finally all the roadblocks are disappearing and the anticipation is coming to a peak, pun intended.
The history: The Movement Fam's Cee (MC/manager) and Alaiz's Dr. MaD (producer/DJ) have an interesting story. They worked together via a chain of connections beginning with KevinNottingham.com back in 2009, without ever actually speaking. But when Cee moved to Montreal in 2012, the two finally connected in person. MaD made some beats with Cee in mind, and what was supposed to be just a brief collab quickly escalated into a full-scale EP entitled 'Steps To The Peak'.
This project is an eight track love letter to the city of Montreal. It was entirely written, produced, recorded, shot and designed in the 514, with the exception of Notion's mixing and mastering in Toronto (he's part of The Movement Fam so it's cool). Dr. MaD's production is enveloped in the art of sampling, with old Soul and Jazz tunes brought to life by his deft chops, dipping them in Hip Hop on the way out. Cee used this sonic landscape to tell real life stories about his experiences in Canada - leaving his home country of Australia to pursue a dream in the great wide north, the tumultuous move to Montreal, dealings with immigration, and his regular battles with fear, doubt and negative energy. Ultimately, it's a story of two artists connecting through the love of music in order to express their 'amour' for the city, the country and the culture of Hip Hop.
'Steps To The Peak' will be available for free download via Cee's Bandcamp page on Friday September 13th 2013 (13 is Cee's lucky number).
Video: JID Opens Up For Scotty ATL At The Drunken Unicorn In Atlanta
While at Scotty's show this past Friday I was introduced to a lot of dope artists on Atlanta's underground circuit. Earthgang, Chiiirp and JID to be exact. The kid JID opened up the show with a dope set unfortunately I only caught a small portion. Relax and Listen!