I think we all can agree that Judgement Night taught us three very invaluable lessons:
1. Apparently, there are parts of Chicago about a block off of the Magnificent Mile where nobody is awake, out or about by about midnight-ish.
3. Rap/rock albums almost always are better in concept than they are in delivery. For every “I Love You, Mary Jane,” there are dozens of “Another Body Murdered.”
So why the hell would the Black Keys even want to try their hand at that hybrid game? Turns out, Patrick and Dan have been hip-hop heads since they were teenagers, and, truth be told, who wouldn’t want to hang out with RZA for a while? The kung-fu movie recommendations alone would be worth the price of admission for the artists, sure, but what about us fans?
Believe it or not, we fans are in for an actual treat. The musical duo lay down some impressive beats and riffs for some of today’s top tier MCs. The guest list includes such heavyweights as Mos Def, Q-Tip, RZA, Raekwon, Ludacris, and, back from the grave, Big Baby Jesus himself, the ODB. (Speaking of which, somebody remind me that if i ever fake my own death to “just have” boatloads of blog posts laying around for other bloggers to sample me into their writings for the next decade or so.) Nicole Wray shows up to add some actual singing here and there, as does Auerbach. The only real disappointment for my ears is the inclusion of NOE. Sure, one should assume that if one of the co-founders of Roc-A-Fella Records was going to be a driving force behind the album, then you’d have at least one cat who sounds eerily like Jay-Z, but guess what? i can’t stand Jay-Z, so why would i like a knock-off version any better? (i don’t mean to hog the soap box or anything, but Jay-Z, Radiohead and U2 are the top three most egregiously overrated musical acts of my lifetime.)
But i digress. Beyond simply being a damn fine album, what do we learn upon listening? Well, for one thing, the Keys can play a boatload more than their usual white boy garage punk blues. Seriously, give those guys a back-up singer or two and a keyboardist, and they’re freaking lethal. i don’t even know what would happen if they added horns. Probably the start of some new religious movement, i’d imagine. The bearded clearly would be the Chosen, but i’m digressing again. While damn near everyone on the album puts in at least admirable performances, can i tell you, those two Mos Def tracks blow me away. While his lyrics remain sharping and his vibe stoney chilled, it’s his off-key singing that intrigues me. i can’t quite put my finger on it, but there it is.
i think there are greater chances of me growing a mullet than there are of the entire project ever touring, but i’ll say this right now–make it just the Keys, Mos Def and Nicloe, and you’ve got the makings of a super band right there.
And if all that still wasn’t enough for you, you can always buy the accompanying ride and go from there.