Album review: 'Blackroc,' by the Black Keys
Rap-rock, as a genre, has a bad connotation. In many cases, rightly so. The music world has been exposed to plenty of hip-hop-meets-rock incarnations since Steven Tyler busted through Run DMC's wall back in the day. They've ranged from good (Korn) to OK (Linkin Park) to truly heinous (Vanilla Ice's rap-metal album).
But it's hard to resist the rusty, bluesy sounds of Ohio's Black Keys on "Blackroc," particularly when they're paired up with Rza and Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, Ludacris, Q-Tip and others.
Normally, the Keys would be cranking out distorted garage blues, but they tweak their sound here to better accommodate a set of excellent verses that really manage to meld the two genres without it sounding forced.
Shimmery guitar echoes back Mos Def during "On the Vista," Jim Jones and MOP's Billy Danze spin cautionary romantic tales over the old-school crunch of "What You Do To Me" and NOE rolls over the garage funk of "Done Did It."
Even when the production is derivative, it works: Keys' guitarist Daniel Auerbach does a beautiful job capturing the essence of classic Wu-Tang production with his guitar as Rza and Pharoahe Monch rhyme on one of the album's best tracks, "Dollaz & Sense."
"Blackroc" has what so many other rap-rock projects are missing: By using the same type of raw sound that so many hip-hop samples are after in the first place, the Keys are able to create a hybrid record that sounds completely unforced, and most of the time, really, really good.
"Blackroc" will be released Nov. 27.