Shouldn’t work but it does
Rock and rap have never quite been the easiest of bedfellows. Of course, it was different back when Aerosmith and Run DMC shared a microphone for Walk This Way. The success of that pairing encouraged others to hook up their own MTV-friendly duets.
However, it soon became more about following a formula than having fun. For every Judgement
Night soundtrack that paired the likes of Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, Slayer and Living Colour with Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, De La Soul and Sir Mix a Lot, there were always more ill-advised unions, usually involving men in unsuitable shorts (Limp Bizkit, we’re looking at you). By the time Jay-Z and Linkin Park jumped into bed together, no one was laughing. Or listening.
Enter hip-hop scenester and former Jigga partner Damon Dash with his own take on the rock-meets-rap racket. He persuaded Ohio blues-rockers and Danger Mouse accomplices The Black Keys to spend a couple of days in a studio producing on-the-fly instrumentals. He then talked A-list hip-hoppers into rhyming over tracks they’d never heard before they walked into the studio.
What sounds like a recipe for disaster turns out to be an unexpected triumph. Much of this comes down to the loose, organic vibe powering the Blakroc set-up with the two sides reacting to the circumstances by joining forces rather than facing off. Over sleazy, dirty, gigantic slabs of sound from Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, you have Mos Def (whose On the Vista is truly sublime), Raekwon, Q-Tip, Ludacris and even a back-from-the-grave Ol Dirty Bastard doing some equally fine hollering about whatever comes to mind.
There are some great turns throughout, as well, from Nicole Wray, with What You Do to Me in particular really shining through.
Blakroc really shouldn’t work, but it does – and how. www.blakroc.com JIM CARROLL
Download tracks: On the Vista, Tellin’ Me Things
Vista vision: Mos Def and Dan Auerbach