Sergio Mendes, Black Eyed Peas create hip-hop samba
Legendary Brazilian enlists some of today's biggest hip-hop/R&B artists for new album
Published: Thursday, June 22, 2006
Updated: Sunday, May 17, 2009 19:05
Sergio Mendes is the best-selling Brazilian recording artist of all time, but his heyday was in the 60s.
To mount a comeback, he has taken the approach of artists like Santana and enlisted a slew of today's hot young talents to make his work relevant.
John Legend, India Arie, Justin Timberlake and Jill Scott are some of the stars who make appearances. Mendes' approach to a comeback album differs greatly from Santana's because he is simply reworking his old hits with modern beats. The results are mixed, but the tracks that work are truly outstanding.
When the Black Eyed Peas re-invented themselves with the album Elephunk back in 2003, front man Will.i.am got Mendes, one of his childhood heroes, to play piano on the track "Sexy". Will.i.am enjoyed working with Mendes so much he decided to collaborate on an entire album with his hero.
With Will.i.am acting as producer on this CD turns out more like hip-hop and R&B flavored with Brazilian beats instead of the other way around. For the most part that's not a bad thing, but occasionally Will.i.am just wasn't able to get a perfect gel between the samba classics and his hip-hop vision.
The sound on this CD generally works when there isn't a forced gelling of genre's and one style just fits inside another. One example of success includes the track "Please Baby Don't" featuring young R&B starlet John Legend, and the title track "Timeless" with India Arie. Both singers deliver their vocals beautifully, and the tracks work because the funky beats don't try to be hip-hop or Brazilian; they just fit.
Other highlights include "The Frog" featuring rapper Q-Tip which has infectious sing-a-long chorus and "Yes, Yes, Y'all" which features BlackThought of The Roots.
Although the vast majority of the songs have the Black Eyed Peas signature hip-hop sound, this is a comeback album for Mendes and a number of samba-heavy tracks do feature. The highlight of which is "Berimbau" which features Stevie Wonder on Harmonica. This version actually breathes some new life into the song. Mendes even proclaimed he liked the new version better. More life is breathed into the samba classics when Brazilian rapper Marcelo D2 makes an appearance on the normally all instrumental "Samba de Bencro".
For those that don't already like samba, this CD might not make them book a flight to Rio anytime soon, but as it breathes new life into samba it also breathes new life into hip-hop. Recommended for those who want something new or just can't get enough of the Black Eyed Peas.
This is a column of opinion by Abbenyi Wa Abbenyi. Responses can be directed through the editorial board at firstname.lastname@example.org.