Timeless

Artist: Sergio MendesTitle: TimelessRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Mark Cilantro

Remember when Eazy E tried to cash in on the De La Soul craze, post Feet High and Rising? That was when Ruthless Records signed The Atban Klann. A Black cat with dreads, a Filipino dude, and a Pacific Islander; former dancers with a Boho fashion sense and Clinton era positivity. That group got dropped and resurfaced as the Black Eye Peas. Fast forward 10 years and The Atban Klann has sold more records than NWA, added a woman whose lady lumps are not as remarkable as she thinks, got in bed with more corporate licensors than Moby and re-established PG-13 Hip-Hop.

A lot of people hate on BEP while neglecting their business acumen and willingness to have fun and not be so damn morose all the time. This month they give another reason to like them. Will.I.Am’s collaboration with the legendary Sergio Mendes, Timeless (Concord Records/Hear Music).

Many of the Hip-Hop generation know Sergio, but don’t know him. His band Brasil ’66 has created some of the most beautiful soundscapes of the 20th century. Classic artists from A Tribe Called Quest to new school torchbearers like J-Live have created hits from sampling Sergio’s compositions. In a creative magnanimous move Will.I.am has reached out to Sergio to connect the dots. The result is a somewhat poppy record on the surface whose foundation links the best in neo-soul and post Native Tongue Hip-Hop to classic bossa nova.

Timeless oscillates between Will’s remakes and remixes of classic Sergio to new compositions featuring an all star guest lineup. Erykah Badu, Pharoahe Monche, John Legend, Jill Scott, Justin Timberlake, Black Thought, and The Abstract Poet Incognito all make quality guest appearances. Will and Sergio do an excellent job pulling a classic Tribe sound out of Q-Tip on the funky fresh “The Frog.” “Surfboard” an odd choice for the Tonight Show appearance disappoints while the remake of the classics “Berimbau” and “Mas Que Nada” make you wanna break out the dance shoes. The India.Arie (“Timeless”) and Jill Scott (“Tell Me”) joints could have easily been on the lady’s respective sophomore albums. The star of the album may be “Yes, Yes, Y’all” a remake of the classic 1968 Sergio jam, that joins Black Thought and the almost forgotten Chali 2na.

It’s likely the involvement of Will will cause an unfair backlash in the hard line Hip-Hop community. It will be a shame because there is a quality album here. And as Sergio himself says, “It turned into a wonderful marriage of rhythms because it’s all African rhythms and haunting melodies. It’s all about the same beats that we inherited from Africa. It’s that same common denominator that brought the samba to Brazil and brought jazz to America. Hip-Hop is urban to America, but samba and bossa nova are urban to Brazil.”

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