Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: Blakroc, Damon Dash, Jay-Z, Jim Jones, Mos Def, Nicole Wray, NOE, ODB, Q-Tip, Raekwon, Releases of the Week, RZA, the Black Keys
PREVIEW: VISIT Blakroc’s Website
WE GIVE IT: 17/20 Watts
Regardless of any preconceived notions you may have regarding rap-rock, it’s hard to ignore a group with a lineup as stacked as Blakroc.
With the bluesmen of the Black Keys laying the foundation for tracks featuring the likes of Mos Def, Raekwon, Q-Tip, ODB (from the grave, obviously), RZA, Jim Jones and others, the collaboration, headed by hip-hop mogul Damon Dash, was set to turn heads, if nothing else. With the release of the group’s self-titled debut though, Blakroc is sure to shatter any of your dispositions against the genre.
Taking on a clearly Delta Blues inspired sound, the guys from the Black Keys refuse to assume a “backing band” roll throughout the record, and for good reason. Behind each of the notorious vocalists, the duo groove with a heaviness that would make their Delta predecessors proud.
Black Keys, who Dash has said are his favorite band, position themselves around the vocalists on the tracks, rather than behind, giving each track a noticeably more cohesive sound. Never is hesitation heard in the backing tracks on the record, leaving the remarkable vocal roster to perform at their best.
While the collaboration may seem at first to be nothing more than your run-of-the-mill rap-rock novelty, the lineup of vocalists from track to track is hard discount. While not every track is single-worthy, each is still a success in its own right. Nicole Wray’s vocals are some of the smokiest sounding on the record (see “Why Can’t I Forget Him”), featuring a relaxed longing that complements the Black Keys’ blues backing remarkably.
NOE, who has often been cited as sounding like Jay-Z (we believe it now), achieves a flow on “Hard Times” that would make Hova himself blush. Perhaps the most notable of the vocalists on the record, though, is Mos Def. His comfort with a live band is obviously attributable to his past work, but important nonetheless.
In the end, Blakroc takes the novelty associated with the rap-rock genre and shatters it. With a refreshing and groove-heavy sound, the 11 artists of Blakroc have effectively resurrected a dead concept, or at least reminded us that it could still be done well. At this point, I guess all we can do is sit back and wait for the sophomore release from rap-rock’s talented new entrepreneurs.
— John Luposello