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The Urban Sophisticates Are No Cowards

Published: Thursday, December 8, 2005

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01

When you go to see your favorite rock group live, you go expecting to see the inevitable opening band that shares the same sound or is stuck in the same genre. This is a common occurrence in the music scene that often ends up being either a good promotion for worthy bands, or a marketing scheme for bands that record companies are trying to sell. But what happens when you have a band that doesn’t fit into any one genre? This is the predicament that group The Urban Sophisticates is in. Self proclaimed as “post bling neo funk hip hop for ya soul” this group of seven guys is often seen sharing the stage with local rock bands around the area. If you go to the club wanting to hear one specific sound from them though, you will be pleasantly disappointed.

The Urban Sophisticates are proud to release their latest effort, The Coward’s Anthem. It’s an album that shows a truly collective effort from all members of the band, an eclectic sound that powerfully fuses rock, hip hop, r and b, soul, jazz, ska, and everything in between. On top of the music sits the smoothly flowing lyrics of Benton James that come out totally honest and nothing less. James isn’t afraid to tell you what’s on his mind, and it is undeniable. From September 11th to Jerry Springer to his utterly shameless faith in God, he leaves no subject untouched.

“I have two major influences” he admits “Adam Duritz from Counting Crows and Nas.”

His influences alone speak of the many sounds this album draws from, but there are seven very different members of the band. James is quick to credit his band mates on their influence on the album.

“This album is the sound that these seven individuals make. It is more of a record chemically (than the last record.)”

The album begins with the title track and a candid appeal to the ladies from James saying, “I know I’m not the handsomest, and the car that I drive ain’t the fanciest, but if I took a couple inches of my waistline would it be enough for you to wanna be mine?” What follows is a diverse record that takes the ears of any willing listener on a journey through the sound of this unique hip hop group. The track “Chapel Hill” begins and ends with a strong groove and is one of the best showcases of the very talented horn section comprised of Sal Mascali and Jeremy Denman. The quick and rhythmically fluid lyrics of Benton James come out spitting like the best MCs on tracks “I’m Feelin’ It” and “To the Top.” All throughout the album guitarist Tim Hooker adds his unique riffs that standout and Aaron James adds soul from his deep and rich voice. Perhaps the best track on the album is “Testify.” It stands out and shows what this band is really made of musically and where they come from as human beings.

“We’re here to testify, we’re here to change your brain, we’re here to testify, not just entertain” goes the chorus of the darker and earthier track. It’s just one piece of evidence of the honesty of the band.

The end result of this album is a well rounded record that will stand out in each music scene it draws its sound from.

“This album means a lot to me” admits James. “This record is our livelihood, our hard work, our blood, sweat, and tears.”

The hard work shows. The album is produced very well and the songs are all perfect blends of the members’ many influences. Sounds from rock bands like 311 and Incubus and MCs like Nas and Jay Z are littered throughout the record. The members in fact aren’t cowards and aren’t ashamed of their sound. The whole of this record it is an honest sum of all its parts.

Perhaps the only thing lacking in the record is the energy from the live show that this band is known for. To hear an Urban Sophisticates album and never see them live is to only know half of the band. They are a must see live as they take what you hear from their album and amplify it to produce a dynamic hip hop experience. The members are all hopeful that this album will do well and spread their original sound around many different markets. James jokes “I want this record to get us signed so I can be on cribs. But first I would like it to pay my rent.” The heart of each member lies in the music though, and their sound is really making noise in the scene.

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