Thursday, March 4, 2010

BLACKROC REVIEW - Posted by Victor "Vic" De Zen

Everybody who thought that hip hop is dead (thank you NaS for making that hip hop quotable what it is today), probably just can't stand the hip hop that has been dominating the modern era. In a sense you can't really blame them. The "soul" the "essence" and creativity seem to have taken a back seat for what's mainstream, from a lyrical standpoint, or lack thereof, (yes we all heard you Method Man) or from a production stand point (I curse the day auto-tunes was created). So imagine my surprise when I stumble upon "hip hop salvation" so to speak, from a blues rock band based out of Ohio called The Black Keys.

It's strange how this came about. I was watching a link at with this rather obscure band talking to Dame Dash. Dame Dash of all people.

Now for those that don't know Dame Dash, you can thank this man for the dominance of the most popular hip hop mogul to date Jay-Z. He opened the door for him and in the fifteen or more years he's been in the game, I have not seen Dame Dash deal with any artist that isn't well known. But, when you have a history of building up one of the greatest of all time from the ground up, you demand to be listened to. Which is what The Black Keys were doing. They listened and they heeded his word. and from that the collaboration that created the album Blakroc was born.

Despite the blues/rock sound from The Black Keys, this is not a reason to sleep on this album. This is a solid HIP HOP album. Why wouldn't it be? Given the fact blues and rock is a part of hip hops ever expanding origins. Blakroc boasts some of the best names hip hop has ever brought forth in the game. And there in lies the genius of this project. It's not just an album where the band got any artist Dame can get his hands on. For each track Dame suggested individuals he thought would meet the tracks' criteria. Most notably Mos Def who has made it clear he has been an absolute fan of the rock group for some time now. I would have to say he fit the tracks he was on more than other artists on the album. "On the Vista" displayed his lyrical talents in an appropriate way as well as his vocals. His vocals were more prominent in "Aint Nothin Like You". This song invokes a mood in me that wants to go to a blues club with a pint of Guinness in hand and just sit and reflect.

Then there's Jim Jones who collaborates with Mos Def on this track. Jim Jones has come a long way, lyrically, from his early days with Cam Ron and it shows on this album. If this was four years ago and you were to tell me that Jim Jones was to be on the same track as Mos Def, I would have asked "why does Jim Jones want to embarrass himself like that?" But he really displays a lyrical talent that, while still needs work in my eyes, is really reflective and deep. This is something that is slowly becoming a rarity in today's current form of hip hop music. He goes at it again later in the album in what became my favourite song "What you do to me" alongside M.O.P. member Billy Danze who comes enthusiastically hard as he always does.

Other highlights for this album were tracks that boasted the affiliate of Jim Jones, Noe. The two tracks Noe were on, "Hard Times" and "Done did it" really give you a sense of this up and comers talent. Wu-Tang Clan was featured heavily on this album with a track that included Raekwon, "Stay off the F**ckin Flowers", and two from Rza "Dollaz and Sense" and "Tellin me Things I don't want to hear".

Black Keys produced a track called "Coochie" which featured the vocals of the late Ol' Dirty Bastard as well as Ludacris and I have to say, if there was ever a low point in the album it was this. Ludacris just doesn't fit the chemistry of the entire album and Dirty's vocals over the Black Keys production just don't go right together. If this is the only complaint I have though, it's not much as this track is still decent regardless.

If this is the direction Dame Dash is headed towards, I am onboard for this journey. Despite the rocky dispute that ended his 10 year partnership with Jay-Z and Jay-Z's continued success WITHOUT Dame, you still have to respect the man with the credentials he has under his belt. And if he going to be the "saviour" for hip hop music that doesn't suck, if he wants to be known for no longer being affiliated with "whack" music, namely mainstream artists, then I'm all for it.

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