If the name Aloe Blacc rang a bell when you read the headline to this piece, it's for damn good reason, but it's likely not for the same reason I’m writing this article.
Aloe’s biggest moment of recognition—on a mainstream level anyway—is no doubt due to his breakout 2014 single, “The Man,” which was used for the first run of Beats By Dre commercials and marked the beginning of his relationship with Interscope Records.
The track was a catchy, soulful R&B offering that had all the promise of making Blacc the next household name in the realm of pop/R&B, but it was only one facet of the multi-talented West Coast artist.
Unbeknownst to many who fell in love with the R&B-centric work on his Wake Me Up EP, Aloe Blacc is an incredibly talented emcee, an aspect of his artistry he’s explored extensively in the past with fellow West Coast staple Exile as the group Emanon.
After indulging his more soulful side on his last couple releases, Aloe has returned to dope emcee form on Dystopia—his latest release with Exile as Emanon—and damn, is it good to have him back.
For those who are only familiar with the pop/R&B stylings of Aloe, prepare to have a mind blowing, Jidenna-esque moment. The guy can spit.
On Dystopia, Aloe shines lyrically over an eclectic, sample-driven soundscape by Exile, who has perfected his craft over years of working with everyone from Jurassic 5 to Big Sean. The chemistry between the two is palpable, and it’s no accident.
The pair has been putting out projects together since 1999, and if you find yourself surprised by Aloe’s abilities as a rapper and not just a singer, know that both aspects have been a part of Aloe’s artistic soul since day one.
Exile has been working with Aloe Blacc since the two were teenagers and has witnessed Aloe’s artistic evolution firsthand throughout the last 17 years.
"Aloe is capable of exploring many broad ranges of style that started with hip-hop," Exile told DJBooth via e-mail. "From R&B, soul, and opera to hip hop, Aloe is not bound by one sound, and his exploration of audible art has had no effect on his exceptional skill as a rapper. He is still a very relevant emcee. I don't believe Aloe should limit his range of art, he should and will continue to explore his art to the depths of his mind and heart."
From a hip-hop perspective, Exile is able to bring out a side of Aloe that we’re not usually privy to, one that encapsulates the darker reaches of his mind as well as some incredibly impressive moments of lyricism. This ability is most readily apparent on standout tracks like “Aloe Be Thy Name” and “Monetary Murder.”
In listening to Dystopia, it’s obvious that, while Blacc has spent the past few years exploring his more soulful side, it has had absolutely no effect on his potency as a rapper. Aloe is still perfectly capable of delivering a thunderous 16, as well as pensive insights that shine brightly on tracks like “Death Is Fair” and the project’s closing track, “The E.N.D.”
After hearing this project, it’s clear that we’ve only seen the tip of Aloe Blacc’s artistic iceberg, and with a legendary producer like Exile at his side, Blacc’s inner emcee is able to come through in its most potent incarnation.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram