‘My next chapter is not about getting money any way you can get it,’ says Damon Dash. ‘It’s about quality of music, sharing, growing, love. It’s really just about love.’ This from the multimillionaire cofounder of Roc-a-Fella Records? On the basis of Blakroc, one is inclined to believe him: the project is founded on mutual admiration and creative curiosity. It started with Dash reaching out to his favourite band, blues-rock duo The Black Keys (pictured: singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach), to see if they wanted to collaborate with rapper Jim Jones (answer: yes). The night before recording, Dash bumped into Mos Def, ‘and it snowballed from there’.
Guests including Def and Q-Tip gathered in a cosy Williamsburg studio to record, and judging by the fly-on-the-wall webisodes (found at www.blakroc.com), it’s a ton of fun. But does it work? It’s a guest-based record, so some parts inevitably work better than others. The Raekwon track, naturally, is fantastic: ‘Stay Off the F****** Flowers’ matches the rapper’s gruff, resinous flow to erratic, pitter-pattering rhythms and a siren-style guitar lick. ‘Tellin’ Me Things’ is similarly irresistible, with RZA mumbling delicious nonsense over a speaker-rattling bassline.
The Black Keys are at their most inventive when matched with such talents. And it follows that less-interesting vocal cuts (Jay-Z-alike rapper Noe, for instance) also plod musically. But, says Dash, ‘You don’t make a record for radio, or a record that’s gonna sound good on MTV. Make something that you love.’ Who could argue with that?