Like peanut butter and jelly, beans and rice, ham and eggs, fish and grits- (What? You never had fish and grits?), some things go well together.
Since 1986, when Run-DMC collaborated with Aerosmith on the classic “Walk This Way”, hip-hoppers and rockers have been attempting to recapture the magic and successfully merge the two genres. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the evolution of hip hop into something that can be enjoyed by all cultures, it’s just that sometimes it works out (think Kevin Rudolf and Lil Wayne’s “Let It Rock”)….and sometimes it doesn’t (think Nelly and Tim McGraw’s “Over and Over”).
In the case of the new Blakroc project- Blakroc (V2/Cooperative) it works like cake and ice cream, Peaches and Herb….(you get the idea). The collaborative effort is the brainchild of former Roc-A-Fella co-CEO Damon Dash, who has been out of the music spotlight since his unceremonious split with former partner Jay-Z.
After hearing Ohio rock band- The Black Keys’ last album: “Attack & Release” (produced by Knarles Barkley’s Danger Mouse), Dash introduced singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney to Diplomat (Harlem’s Diplomat Records) crew leader Jim Jones. The result is 11 of the most innovative and interesting tracks to spill out of the studio in a long, dry season of musical foolishness.
Featuring guest appearances from Mos Def (always a good thing), Ludacris, NOE, Pharoahe Monch, Nicole Wray (remember her from back in the day?), Wu Tang Clan alums Raekwon and RZA (who basically did beats for free, thanks to a new-found love of the art and craft of making music), Q-Tip (also guaranteed to add some hip hop class to any joint), Billy Danze (of M.O.P.) and even some pre-mortem material from Old Dirty Bastard, Blakroc was released November 27.
The first single, “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)”- featuring Mos Def and Jim Jones is classic Mos Def, sure to remind you of Memphis bar-b-que joints, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughn…more than satisfying. “Hope You’re Happy”, featuring Billy Danze, Nicole Wray and Q-Tip opens with Auerbach shredding on the lead guitar in a way that kind of reminds you of Prince going all psycho and rolling around on the floor in “Purple Rain”. At just over 2 minutes, it’s one of the shorter tracks on the album, but still leaves an impression. The longer and just as impressive “Why Can’t I Forget Him” encases Wray’s soothing voice in a soulful track that makes you wonder why she’s been away so long.
“Stay Off The F*%$#n’ Flowers” ft. Raekwon is pure Wu Tang bliss. The bass is ridiculous. Not bass as in 808- bass as in the old school- jazz trio, bass cello – complete with strings and all. “Coochie”, featuring Ludacris, Old Dirty Bastard and the Black Keys, is raunchy (as the name would imply), and a little more hard core than the rest of the album; but it also reminds us of why we loved ODB (aka Big Baby Jesus) no matter what types of shenanigans he managed to get into. As usual, Ludacris delivers- no one is better at riding a beat. The Black Keys refuse to let the heavyweight rappers run them over, holding their own on the instrumentals.
Overall, Blakroc has a bluesy, 60’s feel to it that, on many of the tracks, brings to mind the Dap Kings- minus the cracked out, bee-hive rocking Amy Winehouse, so if you like that sort of thing- this is definitely for you. The eerie thing is, you almost expect to hear her alto roll in at some point. The addition of some of the most prolific and respected hip hop artists of today is what makes this project special.
Will the album make a major splash and change the world of hip hop as we know it? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Not because it isn’t good, but because modern-day radio may not be able to say good-bye to Soldier Boy Tell ‘Em and Gucci Mane just yet. All we can do is hope Blakroc will still be around when the tide turns, and folks are ready for good, solid music again.