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 DirectionsAloe
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.