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Us3: Questions

In 1994, the jazz/hip-hop outfit Us3 arrived on the scene with a sound that combined rap with live playing and samples culled from Blue Note’s vast vaults. The group earned a huge hit with “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia),” which incorporated a sample of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” but it never had another major hit and more or less disappeared. Leader Geoff Wilkinson alone is back with Questions (, which reveals a new, contemporary sound blending jazz, dance, Latin and urban flavors without samples.

On “Whatcha Gonna Do?” South African singer Mpho Skeef-who sounds uncannily like Erykah Badu-sings over a cool, spare Latin rhythm, while “Can U Feel It?” combines flutes and Latin rhythms with rapper Reggi Wyns’ vocals, all laid over a spongy electronic beat. The album’s lone instrumental, “The Healer,” is a funky horn-section-driven workout featuring a George Benson-esque scat-along-with-guitar sequence. The weakest tracks on the album are two remixes of “Cantaloop.” Though the mixes present decent new takes on the familiar song, the lyrics feel dated, which detracts from Us3’s otherwise successful return.

Originally Published