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FAST TRACKS

So samba, hip-hop share same street

February 05, 2006|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

THE musical continuum connecting early '60s samba and new millennial hip-hop seemed so obvious to bossa nova piano maestro Sergio Mendes and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am, it was practically hidden in plain sight.

The two, who first worked together two years ago on a song for the "Be Cool" soundtrack, have reteamed on "Timeless" (Concord Records/Starbucks Hear Music), Mendes' first new album in eight years. The record seamlessly melds complex Brazilian polyrhythms with neo-soul crooning, and bass-heavy ProTools beats with MC rhymes -- some of which are rapped in Portuguese. And as it turns out, the seemingly disparate musical styles go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

"Samba music is from the streets of Brazil," said Mendes, who will turn 65 this month. "It's urban! I mean, Carnaval: That's people singing and dancing in the streets, right? You can't get much more urban than that. And so is hip-hop.

"Will understood this," Mendes said. "He brought the hip-hop world and the chemistry came together organically. It's nothing forced."

What's more, Will.i.am (described by Mendes as a scholar of classic Brazilian instrumental albums and owner of a vast bossa nova musical library) corralled a who's who of rap and R&B stars, including Justin Timberlake, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Pharoahe Monch and Stevie Wonder for guest shots on the album, which was recorded in Sao Paulo, Paris and Encino.

Wonder and Timberlake, among others, made their contributions after happening by the Hollywood recording studio where Mendes and Will.i.am were working.

"Stevie loves Brazilian music," Mendes said. "Then, when he was at the Record Plant, he heard we were in the next studio and said he wanted to be a part of it. Will gave him the tape, he did one take -- bang! Stevie playing harmonica on a Brazilian classic [1964's "Berimbau/Consolacao"] makes the record. It's the natural encounter, the beautiful merging of the worlds."

On Monday, Mendes, the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and several other "special guests" (the list may or may not include Q-Tip, Arie and Wonder) will play together at the Peapod, a concert benefiting children's charities, taking place at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

The show will also be carried live worldwide via AOLmusic.com, XM Satellite Radio and DirecTV.

"It's gonna be my first time performing with these guys," the Brasil '66 founder admitted. "We've been rehearsing every day."

Getting in on the joke

Nothing crystallizes punk rock's je ne sais quoi quite like trampling acceptable boundaries of taste and behavior. Ergo, "Live Freaky! Die Freaky!," a film-music project, can be described only as punk with a capital P. It's quite likely the first feature-length stop-motion animated film featuring a puppet-ized Charles Manson.

Voiced by a grab bag of hard-core notables including Rancid's Tim Armstrong, X's John Doe, the Lunachicks' Theo Kogan, Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte and featuring Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong as the Manson character's voice, "Freaky" tells a vision of the future -- 3069, to be exact -- when Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's book "Helter Skelter" has been interpreted as a biblical tome and Manson is considered the messiah. Rampant bloodshed and puppet sex ensues in what's all supposed to be a joke, albeit a severely twisted one.

The DVD/CD combo, released Tuesday, includes a Tim Armstrong-arranged score and a soundtrack with original songs by Billie Joe Armstrong and Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin, who provides the voice of Mansonite Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.

Enter at your own peril.

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