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14 June, 2005@12:00 am

    Hype…..where would so many new acts be without it? While some artists get lucky by having the right person hear their records, many others have to find a way to get their music into the right hands. The Chapter falls into the latter category, being one of only two groups selected out of 5,000 entrants to be included in Okayplayer Record’s True Notes Vol. 1 compilation. Having ?uestlove of The Roots and Okayplayer help this Chicago-bred/Vegas-based crew get on, certainly helped justify the anticipation surrounding the release of their debut album. And now with this album (Us vs. Them) on the shelves, Verbal E and 3Sixty have proven that they’re indeed worthy of the hype.

    As ?uestlove says himself on the album’s intro, The Chapter is “pretty dope.” Like many debut albums, Us vs. Them is a little rough around the edges, but the potential for greatness is clear. With 3Sixty’s implementation of live instruments into the production and Verbal E’s down-to-earth lyrics and composed delivery, this duo creates a simple yet soulful output. As 3Sixty’s oft-keyboard laced productions knock, Verbal E keeps things fresh with a good range of engaging subject matter. On “Life in the City” E gives listeners a tour of his Las Vegas locale beyond the parameters of “The Strip,” then shares lessons he’s picked up from his elders and from his life on “Pop Said.” Moments like these successfully capture his own observations and experiences while maintaining a universal appeal. Even when he simply has something to get off his chest, like on the unyielding “… I Do Despise,” Verbal E comes off just as nice. And 3Sixty provides a fitting, xylophone-driven melody.

    With plenty of noteworthy material featured, Us vs. Them, is likely to stand as one of the better debut albums of 2005. But despite making a strong entry onto the scene, The Chapter’s best material is likely yet to come. As 3Sixty has only recently begun to play live instruments (bass, drums, keys, guitar, et al.), the potential to create more innovative organic melodies will only grow with time. While the potency of the beats remains stable on their debut, it’ll be interesting to see if 3Sixty will further diversify his production by introducing more instruments and new arrangements. And if he does, it will also be interesting to see how Verbal E will compliment them. If not, he and E have a solid enough formula going that should please fans of The Roots and other neo-Native Tounges artists for years to come.

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