The eighth album from producer Geoff Wilkinson’s hip-hop-jazz crew Us3 sees the introduction of two new MCs from different backgrounds and different nationalities. From Puerto Rico via New York comes Oveous Maximus, and from London, England comes Akala.
The familiar Us3 sound features collaborators past & present, including fiery horn players Ed Jones (sax) and Bryan Corbett (trumpet). A variety of keyboard players take the chair including John Crawford, Mike Gorman, Barry Green, Tim Vine, Neil Angilley, and John Turville. Double Bass is handled by Chris Dodd, and DJ First Rate shows off his turntable trickery again.
Geoff explains the title, and theme, of the album; “I’ve become increasingly disillusioned by the people we, as children, are traditionally brought up to look up to. Politicians, police, business leaders, sportsmen, religious leaders, etc all seem to be up to their eyeballs in corrupt practices. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening at an increasing pace. Is this what a democracy should look like, where it’s ok to lie, cheat & steal your way to the top?”
Akala & Oveous articulate this in the hard-nosed title track, culminating in an epic crescendo of horns. Both rappers acknowledge the spoken word roots of rap respectively; Oveous on the blues-drenched Wild West, and Akala on the staccato stop/start rhythms of The Ring.
The melancholic guitar drenched groove of Ghost sees Oveous telling a story of abuse and revenge, while the breakbeat led Puppets has Akala telling a modern day parable relevant to us all. The Us3 sound is expanded to include flamenco influences on Uptown, and the Fela Kuti – like afrobeat of (You Are) So Corrupt. Lie, Cheat & Steal was recorded in London before, during, and after the recent riots, & Akala sums up the atmosphere on Pressure Bursts Pipes over an amalgam of piano, electronica, horns & angular beats.
The 8-piece Us3 live band will be performing a 19-date European club tour in October 2011.
Oveous Maximus grew up in the Bronx & Washington Heights in New York. An honorary member of the legendary Nuyorican Poets Café, Oveous has a unique style of rap & spoken word. He was a National Poetry Slam finalist 3 years in a row, a multiple winner at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem & has performed on the TV series HBO Def Poetry. He has recorded with Louie Vega and Osunlade., and is about to release his 3rd self-produced studio album this year.
London-based Akala is a MOBO award-winning artist, label owner & social entrepreneur. Inspired by the likes of Saul Williams & Gil Scott-Heron, Akala has released 3 solo albums and performed as far as Vietnam, Brazil, Africa, New Zealand & Australia. In 2009 he launched the “Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company”, already an acclaimed music theatre production enterprise. Recently he presented a TV show about UK MC culture called “Life Of Rhyme” on Channel 4.