Re: US3 (was -- Re: Greyboy - AAARRRHGGHGHH!

Matthew Robert Chicoine (
Fri, 22 Mar 1996 04:25:28 -0500 (EST)

On Thu, 21 Mar 1996, Jim Westrich wrote:

> I think a lot of people forget that US3 started on Ninjatune (as NW1) and
> their first single "And the Band Played The Boogie" (excellent track and
> remixes; on the US3 album with worse vocals/lyrics as "Yukka Toot's Riddim)
> reworked DJFood's "Nuff Nookie". I know I've said it before and may say it
> again.
> This brings me to an interesting point about "underground" vs. "main stream"
> (although I live sufficiently far from any "main stream" that I do not know
> what it is most of the time). Let's say Blue Note does not offer
> Wilkinson/Simpson the vault and NW1 releases a few albums on NinjaTune. My
> guess is that they would be one of the most popular groups on this list. I
> do think that doing "Hand on the Torch" for a major label in some ways
> diminished the project (I do not have any special knowledge or proof but the
> album, particularly the weak raps, were "forced"-- it may be that US3
> themselves were more than happy to let this happen but if they did an album
> for Ninjatune they may have went another root with fewer vocals and more
> experimentation).
Although I never heard NW1, I think the reason US3 gets bad-mouthed is
they didn't warrant all that attention, or the priveledge to the Blue
Note vaults. They were mainstream because they made a mainstream record,
played it safe and predictable for mass consumption. The jazz was more of
a symbol than anything. Besides the token horns, samples, etc. what was
so jazzy about it? Did they approach hip-hop with jazz in mind and vice
versa? No communication between the genres, they rest secured in their
own realms. Courtney Pine drops wisdom in the new SNC when he says:
"Live, there's no true group interaction. So, when you put it on
the bandstand you hear jazz and then you hear hip-hop- they don't
actually meet together, they don't embrace.
It's become an easy, successful formula, you take a jazz loop . .
. a Lou Donaldson loop . . . and put some lyrics over it. I'm not blaming
any side but the jazz guys have to know what it takes to program a
hip-hop record and why there's vinyl noise on there and why this thing is
out of tune and what the ramifications of hip-hop are. And the hip-hop
guys have to do more research into the jazz and then we can get something
productive out of it." (pp. 24)
Its almost too bad that the jazz term is so jocked because it
often eludes us with the symbols but has no substance. Guru's Jazzmatazz
project for instance. I think the point has been made.
To relate a somewhat personal experience that I've been dealing
with for about a month now, I've been spinning at this jazz club in Ann
Arbor (michigan). Up until we started this night, the club saw nothing
but straight ahead jazz acts. The owner let us do the night because he
wasn't making enough money. It seems to me it is a matter of personal and
artistic integrity for him letting us do this night. And what I think
really hurts him is in packing the house to capacity every Tuesday night,
doing shit that is new and now AND musical (players mingle with djs with
poets on the regular), he realizes that he is very much behind the times.
He is a private man, but wiil not even acknowledge what we are doing, not
even a nod to me or any of the musicians. Is it that he can't undertsand
or doesn't want to understand? Many of the regular session players come
to see what the new "fad" is all about (unfortunately, somebody decided
to mark the nights ACID JAZZ in big black letters on the calender; "are
they on acid?"), and have the same attitude. How can these people truly
base their lives on jazz yet not recognize some potential in what we are
doing. You're wondering "Is the shit wack?" I can't really prove anything
I suppose, but I can tell you its as much a jazz improv session as it is
a groove thing. Jazz is a liberating force and should naturally repel
conservative notions of music. Interpretation, subtlety, artistry, right?
The Wynton Marsalis syndrome I suppose. Its really refreshing to know
there are cats like Courtney Pine out there whose love for jazz truly
runs deep like the rivers.
Anyways, bed time. Over and out. Peace-

PS Arrangements are being made to make a REAL mixtape. No more ghetto
sounding radio shows! In the works . . .