On 4th June, 2009, Jim Jones’ Twitter stated that he’d created “some dope music with [The] Black Keys and Mos Def…a good rock and roll experience”.
Since then, the collaboration spearheaded by Damon Dash and The Black Keys has been sucking up cyberspace as rumours that hip-hop luminaries Mos Def, Q-Tip, Ludacris and even the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard were amongst those drafted in to spit verse over the Keys’ beats. A digital dream come true, Blakroc was born. Much like Muddy Waters’ psychedelic ‘Electric Mud’ recordings, the musical soul of Blakroc is rooted deep in the blues. Adding a soupçon of funk, a splash of psych and a handful of fine rappers means that the result is a deftly realised album of collaboration.
Whereas the 1993 ‘Judgement Night’ soundtrack fused rap and metal artists to convivial effect, this savoury concoction draws neatly on the very real connection between blues and hip-hop. A song title like ‘Coochie’ brazenly echoes Willie Dixon’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and – though exhibiting vulnerability is a rarity in hip-hop – here, the music of ‘Tellin’ Me Things’ sees protagonist RZA galloping across a wild, desert plain lyrically dissecting a perplexing relationship. The Black Keys’ sparkling music (healthily informed for this project by working with producer Danger Mouse on ‘Attack And Release’) works best when linked to an MC’s specific style.
Chorus hooks are supplied by the sweet falsetto of Dan Auerbach, adding a continuity and coherence that ‘Judgement Night’ completely lacked. For a project that could have gone drastically wrong, ‘Blakroc’ is best summarised by Raekwon: “The Blakroc project is brilliant acid.”
Words by Ash Akhtar