Monday, May 17, 2010

What we're listening to: BlakRoc

BlakRoc - BlakRoc
Find it in the catalog!

The Black Keys are singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney. Their sound is a gritty garage-rock hybrid of white-boy blues and earnest enthusiasm for the likes of Junior Kimbrough and Lightnin' Hopkins. Their string of outstanding records over the last decade has earned them a loyal following, but the BlakRoc project may seem like a curve-ball to even their loyalest of fans. BlakRoc is a collaboration between The Black Keys and a handful of preeminent rappers. Mos Def, RZA, Raekwon, Q-Tip, and others were enlisted to record rhymes over a bedrock of rhythmic Black Keys jams. If you're wary of another rap/rock crossover project, that reserve is more than justified. There have been very few successful pairings of these two broad genres, and quite a few notable failures, but the BlakRoc project succeeds on every level. The gritty precision of Auerbach's guitar and Carney's drums proves to be a perfect foil for these veteran emcees. There isn't a weak track on the record, but there are several highlights. "On the Vista" seems particularly noteworthy, as Mos Def makes a stronger argument for musical fusion on this two-and-a-half minute track than he managed on the entirety of his 2004 rap/rock album The New Danger. "Dollaz & Sense" is an opportunity to hear RZA (Abbott of the Wu-Tang Clan) alternate verses with Pharoahe Monch, which is a paring not to be missed. Perhaps the best example of the symbiotic sound these artists have created is the album's single. "Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)" features Jim Jones on the mic and Mos Def and Dan Auerbach harmonizing on the chorus. I challenge anyone to listen to this song and not sway along.

Previous albums by The Black Keys:

The Big Come Up (2002)

Thickfreakness (2003)

Rubber Factory (2004)

Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough (2006)

Magic Potion (2006)

Attack & Release (2008)

The forthcoming Black Keys album, titled Brothers, is due out May 18th.