New, but disappointing

Aloe Blacc: Good Things (Just Music)

Aloe Blacc is no newcomer to the music industry, having made what can safely be called progressive hip-hop for a large part of his career.

Good Things
, a soul-funk album produced by the Brooklyn-based Truth and Soul Productions team, is a decided change in direction that is reaping welcome financial rewards for this rapper, singer, producer and DJ.
The catchy, heart-wrenching lead single, I Need a Dollar, is the theme song of HBO channel’s How to Make It in America, a synching deal that probably sent the album’s sales through the roof and ensured that his label, Stone’s Throw, will keep putting out the groundbreaking music it has been doing for the past 15 years.

This offering can be seen as Blacc’s recession diary, in which love, life and the fight for survival continue in an oppressive economic climate. It is awash with wah-wah chops, taut horns and crisp lyrics that betray Blacc’s background as an MC.

But although Blacc is a competent singer backed by a tight band, the album does nothing to elevate his chosen template to new heights. It is simply an exercise in time travelling by a brother from the future. — Kwanele Sosibo

aKING: The Red-blooded Years
(Rhythm Records)

Sometimes, listening to an aKing song, I can’t help imagining that the vocalist is singing off a tele-prompter. He never seems to actually be listening to the words. There is a disjuncture between the words and the music, an absence of affect. It is like Bon Jovi doing Tubeway Army covers.

Yet there can be something appealing about aKing’s relentless mining of stream-of-consciousness phrases and early 1990s riffs, something fanboyish about the way they rock out with their influences out.

Others might hear more emotion in their execution, but I hear a distancing, hypermodern flatness that says more about the rock landscape in South Africa than any aggressive Fokof anthem or melodious ­Parlotones jingle.

It is not what their fans hear, I assume. As always, there will be a different judgment made by those for whom the product is crafted. aKing are very aware of their audience. They won’t carve out a new market share with this offering, but merely satisfy the converted. — Chris Roper

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