>Some of the greatest music ever recorded is a genre generally referred to as soul. It is also one of the pillars upon which Hip Hop was built. Unfortunately sometime among the rise of Hip Hop we saw the demise of Soul and R&B. The genre became over-run with manufactured Pop tarts and wanna-be rappers who were (and are) little more than smut peddlers with some chops.
So it would only be appropriate in this topsy turvy world that a veteran underground emcee would bring us one of the best soul albums in recent memory.
Aloe Blacc, perhaps better known as the rhyming half of Emanon with producer Exile, has been cutting his teeth on the left coast's underground circuit for more than a decade. Early Emanon cassettes like Acid Nine and Imaginary Friends were tape trader favorites before MP3s and upload sites killed the hobby. In 2002 the duo released the gem of Ill Boogie Records’ acclaimed Earplug series called Anon & On. The EP kicked off with “What You Live For,” featuring verses tackling the issues of today’s women, materialism and morals that remain some of the best bars of that decade.
It was shortly after this EP that Aloe cut back on the hot 16’s and began experimenting with other genres and often melting them together. Both Emanon’s The Waiting Room in 2005 and Aloe’s Stones Throw debut in 2006 were chalk full of forays into the wide world of music. While The Waiting Room had winners like “The World Don’t Sing,” Shine Through was largely misses. Some very bad ones at that. So when the outstanding “I Need A Dollar” leaked a few months back, it was a thrill to hear Aloe finally finding what he’d been searching for.
“I Need A Dollar” was indicative of Aloe’s direction in Good Things, who doesn’t rap a single word here. For those new fans who heard Aloe’s single as the theme for HBO’s How To Make It In America, they get plenty of what they came looking for. Aloe’s entrancing cover of Velvet Underground’s oft-covered “Femme Fatale” is among the best you’ll hear. “Green Lights” may not be a cover, but it may as well be considering the Stevie Wonder vibe it carries. Good Things isn’t all retrospective though. Some of the strongest cuts are both very contemporary and Island flavored; “Miss Fortune” boasts Aloe’s top-notch songwriting while “If I” highlights his impressive chops.
Some listeners may not be moved by “Momma Hold My Hand,” but it surely won’t be those with an aging mother. As a stand alone track “Hey Brother” works well, like a score to Ron O’Neal breezing down the block. But as a part of this LP, particularly after the emotionally charged ode to his mother, it is the one and only mis-step on the LP. The title track is also a cut below the rest of the LP, but it does little damage. The expression “a breath of fresh air” may be one of the more overused descriptions going, but if Good Music isn’t just that, then I don’t know what is. Aloe has spent on a long time on the independent grind, this is his time to finally shine through.