Blakroc – Blakroc
Rap-rock began with Aerosmith teaming up with Run DMC. Then came the cleverly concocted rhymes over riffs of the Beastie Boys in the late 80s. But in the past decade, the mash up genre has become a passing fad with Lil Wayne leading the way. Blakroc, a collaboration between Akron, Ohio blues revivalist duo The Black Keys and a who’s who gallery of hip-hop artist, proves that rap-rock deserves a second chance.
Damon Dash, co-founder and former co-owner of Roc-A-Fella records, approached The Black Keys with the project. Dash brought in Jim Jones as a collaborator but the list quickly grew to include Ludacris, Mos Def, NOE, Pharoahe Monch, RZA, Nichole Wray, Raekwon, Billy Danze, Q-Tip, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who is brought back from beyond the grave. The project was finished recording in just 11 days.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Ludacris kick off the album with one of the best tracks of the collaboration, “Coochie.” A franken-track in every sense of the word, ODB’s vocals were cherry picked from an unreleased tape belonging to a previous solo project. Ludacris more then adequately provides additional raunchy verses that lead into a chorus.
Driving each track are the hollow drumbeats of The Black Key’s drummer Patrick Carney and the winding guitar riffs of Dan Auerbach. The Black Keys consistently remain in the background and never threaten to take over a song; it’s always the free flowing lyricists on display. Occasionally Auerbach gets in on the vocal mix adding in his signature bluesy croon, the most prominent moments coming on “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)” and “What You Do To Me.”
The only time The Black Key’s are given to shine comes late into the album. The eighth track, “Hope You’re Happy,” features a heavy blues lick worthy of being included on past Black Keys releases. It’s by far the most daring mix of rock and rap on the album but the contributing artists, Q-tip, Billy Danse, and Nicole Wray find a way to sound natural alongside Auerbach’s soulful guitar.
Blakroc is rap-rock done right. The subtle touch of The Black Keys allows every verse of the many talented artists to shine. It’s a bold approach to an album, but in the end the fusion pays off and turns out to be one of the most surprising albums of 2009.
Trial Track: “Coochie”