Southern California's own Aloe Blacc has brought new meaning to the word "neo-soul" since the beginning of his recording career in 1995, when he joined up with Hip Hop producer Exile to create the indie rap group, Emanon. A few years down the road, Blacc would join forces with Madlib's brother, Oh No, landing himself a handful of collaborations with the beat-master and his kinfolk. Hailing from the same label, this Stones Throw musician has worked long and hard to craft the perfect mix to embody his aspirations musically - whether in the soul, R&B or Hip Hop realm.
His ability into all endeavors is evident nonetheless; his take on John Legend's "Ordinary People" displayed a Latin flair, proving he can excel on a bi-lingual plane as well. The newest album from Aloe Blacc finds a home on the Stones Throw label alongside Dudley Perkins and Madlib's soul step-children; Yesterday's New Quintet and his more jazzy Sound Directions. Aloe Blacc finally finds a little space and time in the sun to step up and shine.
The album entitled Shine Through finds Blacc surrounded within the walls of drum and bass, salsa, soul, dancehall, gospel and folk. Stepping up to the challenge Blacc switches styles like the 16 tracks ask you to, but he impresses equally on covers (which may beg for criticism in comparison) of Sam Cooke and Kanye's partner in crime, John Legend; rarely do you find an artist willing to face the challenge of criticism. The former Emanon MC very easily distinguishes his style and sound from other simply-soul artists, to search and discover where his music can go without the boundaries that some artists accept. His Blacktino artistry and ability as a soul singer equal his gruff appearance when the MC steps up to the mic, but the change itself is seamless.
Oh No and Madlib contribute to the album with a single track a piece, but their overall presence is much less felt in comparison to Blacc's ventures into Latino and Brazilian production, which we find is much more rooted in Central American styles. Although the artist himself, Egbert Nathanial Dawkins III is from Los Angeles, he is the child of Panamanian immigrants, his styles are distinct in their own right because his background was based in West Indian and Carribean history and his ability on their particular instrumentation is evident. Whether you can pinpoint the exact sound of the album, Aloe Blacc makes for a hard-to-nail down landscape, while effortlessly crooning, producing and rapping. Blacc impresses in the spotlight, whether soul is your bag or not.