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Owusu and Hannibal

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Danish modernists Philip Owusu and Robin Hannibal are among a handful of artists -- Jamie Lidell, Eric Lau, Sa-Ra Creative Partners, and Henrik Schwarz are some others -- working to find a way forward for soul music and R&B in the 21st century by blending it with house, broken beat, trip-hop, and other forms of electronica. Both Copenhagen natives, although they consider themselves international citizens first and Danish second, Hannibal (formerly of jazzy hip-hop collective Nobody Beats the Beats) and Owusu (a vocalist of Ghanaian descent, briefly part of the house duo Owusu & Green, who released one 12" on Naked Music) were introduced by a mutual friend, quickly hit it off over overlapping musical interests -- in particular their shared love of Sly Stone -- and began working together in early 2005. Their first collaborative production, the moody broken beat clunker "Delirium," caught the attention of the groove-centric indie Ubiquity Records, who released it as a 12" that November. The full-length Living With... followed a year later, featuring a dozen originals and a glistening cover of the Beach Boys' "Caroline No," produced and performed almost entirely by Owusu & Hannibal, who remain a completely studio-bound project. A smooth, substantially downtempo, but futuristically funky full-length that oozed sophistication but also displayed a distinct playful bent and garnered comparisons to everyone from J Dilla and D'Angelo to Scritti Politti and Steely Dan, the album found favor with the tastemaking likes of Gilles Peterson, Trevor Jackson, and Morgan Geist, who had contributed a remix to the "Delirium" single and later tapped Owusu to sing for Metro Area on their first-ever vocal track, "Read My Mind." ~ K. Ross Hoffman