The Chapter Us vs. Them

[Awthentix Music; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles:  hip-hop
Others: The Roots, Hieruspecs, Slum Village

?uestlove has the reputation of a man whose opinions can be trusted. So when ?uestlove suggests a group, you listen. This is the case with The Chapter. ?uestlove has shown them much love recently. He's invited them on the Okayplayer Tour and introduces them on this here album, Us vs. Them. The Chapter is the duo of Verbal E. (the emcee, obviously) and 3-Sixty, a pair of Chicago transplants.

The Chapter has been putting in work for nearly a decade, but the attitude within the music industry towards underground hip-hop acts isn't always accommodating. There are many constraints. The Chapter felt this first-hand, and chose to adapt rather than give up. Realizing that bands had an easier time booking shows and getting media attention, they recruited some players to back them. Fast forward to now, and the plan appears to have worked.
3-Sixty has developed into a multi-instrumentalist who does a nice job of creating chilled-out canvases for his partner, Verbal E. Verbal E.'s voice and cadence are actually somewhat reminiscent of Black Thought. His songs deal with a variety of topics, but the general concern of this album deals with the group's struggle to break into an industry that isn't very congenial or welcoming to acts that stand for things besides monetary success and empty hopes.

Rhodes keys appear on almost every track, providing laid-back instrumentation that counters the aggressive delivery of Verbal E. Each song could really fit any mood of the listener. The standout track on the album is "Manor Mindstate." It's the culmination of The Chapter's desired sound and features the most impressive verses from Verbal E. on the album. The Chapter is further proof that live instrumentation has a place within a traditional hip-hop structure.

1. Live! From the Devils Den
2. Life In the City
3. This Thing
4. ...I Do Despise
5. Soundwave Slavery
6. Way Out
7. Pop Said
8. On Ten
9. Time Is Now
10. Manor Mindstate
11. One Moment
12. Us vs. Them
13. Ahkil Hill
14. Supremacy
15. Hand Claps