Release Date: Nov 27, 2009
Record label: BlakRoc
Genre(s): Rock, Rap
For a while rap/rock collaborations were an easy way to double your fun, at least during the late 80s and early 90s, when Run DMC and Aerosmith's Walk This Way and Public Enemy and Anthrax's Bring the Noise instantly located fertile common ground – hedonism and unfocused rage respectively. Then the soundtrack to forgettable 1993 action flick Judgment Night ruined everything, pairing Ice-T with Slayer, Faith No More with giant Samoan hip-hop crew Boo Yaa Tribe, in the process inventing the most justifiably maligned genre of recent years: nu metal. From there on in, the whole notion was hijacked by white men dressing and behaving like toddlers, waddling around in over-sized shorts and shouting rude words.
Rap-rock has become a reviled genre, synonymous with white rockers with bad shorts pretending to be straight outta Compton. However, this should restore some of the lustre lost since the likes of Run-DMC and Aerosmith collaborated to produce their mighty Walk This Way. Blakroc brings together blues-rock duo the Black Keys, Jay-Z's old partner Damon Dash, producing, and various A-listish MCs.
Since [a]The Black Keys[/a] worked with [a]Danger Mouse[/a] on their last album, ‘Attack & Release’, it’s fair to say their paths have diverged.Mr Mouse – king of the unexpected collaboration, sometimes confused with King Midas – is no longer ‘Crazy’ famous. Instead, he’s stepped back from big-name collaborations and busied himself crafting noir-ish, scary Americana with Sparklehorse and David Lynch or paying tribute to Merlin with little-known songwriter Helena Costas in the whimsical folk outfit [a]Joker’s Daughter[/a]. Grubby guitar-crankers The Black Keys, meanwhile, now lend their services only to gold-plated superstars such as ZZ Top.
What is striking about Blakroc is the heavy hitters involved; both metaphorically and musically. Names like RZA, ODB, Mos Def, Raekwon and Pharoahe Monch smack the eyes scanning the tracklist. The Black Keys supply sonorous psychedelic grooves and the rappers involved tear at them like a wrecking ball, as if facing down a challenge implicit in the huge riffs surrounding them.
You might think the remarkably similar and undeniably terrible Black Lips/GZA collaborations from earlier this year would have made everyone involved in the BlakRoc project-- Black Keys plus hip-hop artists, to be reductive-- re-think their decision. But by being so blatant about what it did wrong-- combining notoriously sloppy and notoriously methodical artists-- the Lips and GZA may have actually have provided an unintentional boost. No such problem exists in BlakRoc-- the Black Keys recently toe-dipped into hip-hop by having Danger Mouse produce their last LP and their reverent, values-based approach to the blues nicely dovetails with the ethos of the MCs involved-- mostly guys who came up in NYC during the late and mid-1990s.
When Blakroc – the collaboration between garage rock duo The Black Keys and a handful of rappers – was announced, it was met by a feeling of vague understanding in this writer. The Akron, Ohio-based blues rockers wouldn’t be the first group I would guess to engage in a rap record, but then again, their last album was produced by Danger Mouse and their riffs are basic and blunt enough that they just might work behind, say, Mos Def. Well, Blakroc turned out to be more rap than rock, with producer Damon Dash at helm and vocal duties designated almost completely to rappers like Ludacris, RZA, Raekwon and Q-Tip.
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