Us3 – Stop. Think. Run.

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Despite this being the hip hop/jazz crew’s seventh album, Us3 has managed to stay under a lot of people’s radars throughout their nearly 20-year career. With Stop. Think. Run., we’re given another reason to stop sleeping on producer Geoff Wilkinson’s jazzy brainchild. And although the lineup of the collective is perpetually changing, this current incarnation features two young New York MCs at the top of their game.

The 20 year-old Brook Yung has already been around the spoken word circuit, winning multiple awards for his slam poetry performances. The young poet lends a burgeoning yet experienced voice of street reason to the project. The slightly older 23 year-old Sene has been on his grind as well, with his album Elevator Music having dropped in 2008 and an upcoming project with the similarly-styled Blu to be released later this year. Sene brings a confident charisma revealed through his technical rap style. Handling seven tracks each on the fifteen-song album (and sharing the final song), these two lyricists don’t only skillfully complement each other’s styles, they both do immense justice to the beats as well.

Wilkinson laces the album with a plethora of organic instrumental sounds which impart an overt jazzy quality to nearly every track. The album opener, “Gotta Get Out of Here”, relies on a heavily bass-driven backdrop over which Brook Yung describes what he sees in the everyday struggle of life. “From the Streets” is Sene’s answer to Brook Yung’s street chronicle, and it incorporates a light-handed piano and a slew of weeping horns.

An entire review could be dedicated solely to the instrumental aspect of this album, but for the sake of time let’s just leave it at this: Stop. Think .Run. is organic jazz hip hop at its finest; point blank; period. It would’ve been nice to see the two young rhymers getting together on a couple more of the tracks, but even with their general segregation on the album, their chemistry (both with each other and with the beats) create an undeniable cohesiveness. Stop. Think. Run.’s success as an album gives great promise to what future incarnations of Us3 will have to offer.

-gilmore

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