Three Brazilians record Latin hip-hop in Amsterdam with legendary Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, and the results are released on a San Francisco label. As if to throw the globe-mashing in listeners' faces, the phrase "Everything is closer than you think" is printed on the CD jacket. Zuco 103 are a wonderful anomaly, bursting with radical ideas while working within the confines of the world beat genre. Vocalist Lilian Vieira's high-pitched, nearly operatic tenor swoops across the dense backdrop of drums and programming provided by Stuv and Stefan Schmid. Alternating between Portuguese and English, the lyrics to tracks like "Mayfly" and "Love is Queen Omega" are adoring and poetic. In the former, Vieira laments, "When we grow up, we forget / We lose that agony, that love which yearns to arrive." In the latter, co-written with Perry, the mixture of sensuality and reggae's inherent spirituality doesn't crumble under the weight of potential melodrama--rather, the mix is seamless and inspiring. Perry's declaration that "Tony Blair is not free / Queen Elizabeth is not free" pushes the envelope even further, suggesting that Zuco 103's unification of styles is more than merely thinking people's dance music. WHAA! is just as fervent about mixing politics, passion, language (er, languages) and a hell of a beat.
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