You may not be familiar with the name Sergio Mendes. I know I wasn’t. But one glance at the guest artists on the back cover of “Timeless” proves Mr. Mendes must be somebody MAJOR. Pure lyricists like, Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch, The Roots’ Black Thought, and J5’s Chali 2na make appearances. Neo-soul luminaries like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, John Legend, india.arie, and Justin Timberlake (don’t hate, that white boy can SING) also lend their voices. Still not impressed? How about STEVIE WONDER. Yeah, now you catch my drift…

So it’s time to Google this fella. Turns out the guy was kind of a big deal back in the 1960s, making a splash by successfully crossing over Brazilian pop to the American mainstream. Now at age 65, he’s attempting a comeback and guess who’s driving the resurgence? None other than the Black Eyed Peas’ Don’t fret, there are no “Let’s Get Retarded” or “My Humps” in sight. If anything, it’s old-school BEP, back when they were good. It’s painfully ironic that a guy who hurt his credibility by going pop is helping a former pop icon regain his glory by going anti-pop. This album proves two things about BEP’s front man: 1) knows good music, but 2) he consciously chooses the pop trash route (i.e. “My Humps”) for the greenbacks. So you know what, I’m willing to compromise. Put out all the crossover garbage you want, just promise to keep doing these side projects because they’re so damn fresh!

Is “Timeless” your standard hip-hop album? Definitely not. Many of the tracks don’t feature 16s and a handful aren’t even sung in English. But don’t let that get to you. The vibe you get from this album is simply incredible. As described to MTV, “It’s the make-love-slow record.” You can’t tell me that real hip-hop heads don’t listen to Stevie, Erykah, Jill Scott, or John Legend.

Among the standouts are the funky freshness of “Mas Que Nada” featuring the Black Eyed Peas (almost makes me forget about “My Humps”…almost) and the uncanny harmonica of Stevie on “Berimbau/Consolacao”. The emceed tracks aren’t bad either as two of the best songs feature your rapper’s favorite indie rappers. “Yes, Yes Y’all” boasts a leadoff verse from Black Thought:

“Black’s the real, he deserves real fulfill
Park the whip, jump out dressed to kill
Hop the charter flight, damn, to Brazil
Ran right in the wheel with a black (“what’s the deal?”)
Came with a chain, you knowin’ the name
I gotta little bit of change but I’m feelin’ the same
Came here for a taste of the finer things
Cause the girls look like they’re from the months in a magazine
Judging on how fast the word go
They probably already know we here with Sergio
So let’s get a few classy girls yo
And sip a little wine, anything but Merlot”

The song also includes strong contributions from and Chali 2na. The album’s most memorable track is the Iraq War-aimed “Loose Ends”. With Britney’s ex holding it down on the hook, we also witness a socially-aware side of Pharoahe Monch we don’t normally see. Playing the part of (presumably) an American soldier, the Pharoahe spits the real:

“Haven’t slept in days, I squeeze Visine
Cause no man’s eyes should see what I’ve seen
Soldiers lost their minds, robbin’ and pillagin’
Tomahawk missiles hit civilian villages
And they ease the pain with narcotics
I’m scared but I’m trying to remain patriotic”

Not to be outdone, Will.I.Am brings it too, enunciating each word so deliberately that absolutely no one will miss his message:

“The world is changin’, we’re in danger
Cause we ain’t changin’, our behavior
We behave like, karma’s nothing
Ain’t concerned with, repercussions
Ain’t that something, check them out now
Pointing fingers, when they know how
we got to this, point of terror
Precaution could’ve made the road clearer
But we’re stuck with, mediocre
leadership so, we’ll just suffer
Who know what the, hell is going
on but conflicts, keep on growing
It’s a fucked up, situation
When you ain’t got no, education
on the problem, or know what it’s about
You gotta help me out”

“Timeless” falls into a bit of a lull midway through the album (“Bananeira” and “Surfboard”), but even those two aren’t terrible, just not up to par with the excellence demonstrated throughout the rest of the album. It’s rare that I get to tell my readers about a dope “non-rap” album. I’m taking my shot now. Go get “Timeless”, you won’t regret it.

Sergio Mendes :: Timeless
8.5Overall Score