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Blakroc – Blakroc

The Black Keys are the latest band to make that huge leap from critical to commercial acclaim. After three excellent albums, last year’s “breakthrough” release El Camino launched the band from their grossly unfair tag of being the poor man’s White Stripes and provided them with sell-out arena tours and even the likes of the Maccabees supporting them.

Three years ago though, ironically just before penultimate album Brothers introduced Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney to wider recognition, they decided to form a side project called Blakroc, a collaboration with an eclectic group of rappers. It’s strange when you think of rap/rock crossovers, that so few come to mind. The genres are very complimentary, from Walk This Way to 99 Problems and (don’t laugh) some later LinkinPark tracks, when done well the combination can be amazing. That was, I guess, the theory behind the whole “Nu-metal” genre. The trouble was that the reality involved Fred Durst. And no-one wants that.

Anyhow, back to Blakroc, and the album is a wonderful mix of laid-back blues guitar and the varying styles of the rappers who appear on it. Mos Def’s stoned, languid lyrics flow over chilled opener On The Vista, before the tempo picks up for Jay-Z-a-like NOE to hammer home some cracking verses on Hard Times. It doesn’t always work, for example Billy Danze of M.O.P. (remember them?) is just a little too aggressive-sounding for the general vibe of the album, but in general this is an intriguing and varied release. Personal favourites from the album include the soulful Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) and the closing track Done Did It, once again featuring NOE.

All in all, this is an inventive and fresh-sounding collection of tracks. One that proves that, despite achieving commercial success, there is no way you can accuse messrs Auerbach and Carney of lacking creativity or originality.

By Harry Harland