The last couple of months have seen a substantial build up in hype surrounding BlakRoc: a project spearheaded by the creative mind of hip-hop mogul Dame Dash. A project which also places Ohio blues-rock duo The Black Keys in the studio with some of the biggest names in hip-hop.
Spirits soared high as I heard the first track off the record – ‘Coochie’. The song features Ludacris and Ol’Dirty Bastard rhyme about their vested interest in, you guessed it, the ladies. And the track emits pure fiya! Dirt McGirt spits one of the most coherent and engaging verses I’ve ever heard him exude – it truly makes you wonder what could have been had he not passed away. Raw, gritty and hard hitting, this track really sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The rugged drum loops, dusty baselines and chilling screams from the electric guitar serve as a perfect atmospheric backdrop for RZA and Pharoahe Monch to inject their straight talking lyrical onslaught into ‘Dollaz & Sense’. The Chef, Raekwon, serves up a stone cold drug dealer’s tale in true Wu-Tang flavour over the smoky, lo-fi tones of ‘Stay Off The F*%$*n’ Flowers’, before the slurred street lyricism of Jim Jones and the delectable vocal offerings of Mos Def unite on the HUGE banger ‘Hoochie Coo’. Nicole Wray holds it down for the females, providing the album with a slew of delightful, sultry melodies. Whether it be on her solo track, the impassionate ‘Why Can’t I Forget Him’, or adding backing vocals to tracks like ‘Hope You’re Happy’ (featuring Billy Danze and Q-Tip), her voice adds a real soulful dynamic to the record’s overall appeal.
There is something profusely organic about this album. The raw sounds, the live instrumentation provided by The Black Keys, the vigour behind the emcees’ deliveries, the robust energy that seeps out of virtually every track. Your mind can’t help but ponder what it would be like to experience this unique and sonically engaging event live. Though by no means is this one of the greatest albums ever recorded, all credit is due for its innovation; it’s not everyday you get a calibre of hip-hop artists at this level to unite on a rock inspired venture such as this. So, kudos to Mr Dash, The Black Keys and the all the artists involved for giving birth to such a compelling, inspiring and enjoyable record.
Words: Steve Williams
BlakRoc is out now on V2.