Ass-kicking rap rock from Blakroc
I was writing up The Black Keys’ latest studio release, “Brothers,” when I discovered a project that got by me when it was released in November of 2009. The project is called “Blakroc” and I was so excited when I read about it I think I peed a little. Get this. Hip-hop record exec Damon Dash is a huge fan of contemporary blues rock geniuses The Black Keys, a band comprised of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. His idea was to put together a rap rock album featuring The Black Keys and the talents and flow of Q-Tip (Tribe Called Quest), Mos Def, Raekwon (Wu-Tang Clan), RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Billy Danze (M.O.P.), Jim Jones (The Diplomats), Pharoe Monch, Nicole Wray, and Noe (ByrdGang). Yeah. Read that list again.
“Blakroc” is as good you hope it is. Wonderful melodies with fresh and organic instrumentation provided by The Keys make a fantastic backdrop for some varied, clever, and spirited raps by one of the best all-star casts I’ve ever heard on a rap album. Most of the songs are hard rockers with some blues roots – like most Black Keys albums – though a couple of the tracks are a bit softer. I ripped 6 of the 10 tracks on my copy of “Blakroc,” though I’m going back and forth on another that will probably make my iPod. Check out the ones I thought were the best.
- On the Vista – After he released “The Ecstatic,” Mos Def jumped into my top 5 favorite rappers. This is a great track to open the album. Mos Def’s flow is magic and instrumentation flows around his message like slow water.
- Hard Times – It’s so refreshing to hear a great rapping rhythm laid down by live instruments instead of some sterile and repetitive sample. You can hear the genius of this on this track, the guitar line repeats over and over, but it is subtly different every time Auerbach plays it. It just adds a lot of depth to the track.
- Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) – For the first few moments of this song it sounds like a straight up Black Keys song but then you realize it’s Mos Def singing and not Dan Auerbach. And then the flow kicks in, but it never loses the soulful Keys feel.
- Hope You’re Happy – Q-Tip and Billy Danze lay it down with some beautiful help from Nikki Wray over top of a blues/rock groove from Auerbach.
- What You Do To Me – The backdrop is vamping guitar and noodling Hammond organ. Dan Auerbach actually provides the lead vocals at the chorus on this track, which makes sense, since he has such a soulful and distinctive voice. The raps are cool and energetic. Great track.
- Done Did It – This track closes the album, and it’s a rocker. Heavy bass guitar, ripping electric, and Carney pounding the skins back some hard but fun flow.
I read about and tracked down an extra track that is not on my disc (what the…?). It’s called “Coochie,” and it features Ludacris and a recording of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Not my favorite track from the project, but certainly an interesting concept.
Kudos to Damon Dash for not only having this great idea, but for making it happen. The joy in the music is obvious and the photos I’ve seen and an outtake at the end of the album show that the musicians had a great time doing it. Everybody run out and buy it and maybe they’ll have to do another.