It's hard not to think of the group's infectious jazz/hip-hop hybrid "Cantaloop" -- subtly hinting at their sampling of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" and the jazz-heavy influences of hip-hop during that era -- when you hear the name Us3. Eleven years later, Us3's Questions not only asks listeners to "question" the boundaries of sonic citizenship, with producer Geoff Wilkinson cross-pollinating hip-hop, nu-soul and Latin jazz, but also to seek peace in this moment of escalating domestic and international tensions.
The sample-free Questions, however, musically translates into the smooth-jazz fodder of department stores. Rapper Reggie Wyn and London-based female singer Mpho Skeet offer conservative, Bill Cosby-esque sappy and trite messages of personal uplift and mental liberation on "Get It Together," "Believe in Yourself" and "The Truth." There are few shakes in the monotony of social and political didacticism, as Mpho shines when she stops imitating Badu on "Whatcha Gonna Do?" and when Reggie -- using an offbeat spoken-word delivery -- remembers a popcorn love affair inevitably doomed to staleness on the meringue inspired "Goodbye." But mostly, the tepid and uninspiring Questions fails to challenge our defining Us3 merely by their 1994 hit.
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