Californian soul vocalist Aloe Blacc first began his career as a rapper in 1995, but quickly turned his back on that genre, saying that “Artists like 50 Cent made me stop rapping. I felt there was too much opulence, braggadocio and misogyny in hip-hop and I wanted to tell a different story. What happened is that the music got corporatised. Industry executives sacrificed art for what sells and mega-stars now saturate the market with the same tired lyrics.”
‘Good Things’, Blacc’s second album, was released in 2010. Mellow, relevant, and soulful, it’s surely the sophomore album John Legend wishes he had made.
‘Good Things’ immediately sounds like a period piece, with Blacc and his band taking dusky blues influences from Bill Withers, Otis Reading & Marvin Gaye. This could easily have been recorded in the 70s and his message still holds up.
“My purpose for music is positive social change,” states Blacc, who refers to the project as his “report on present conditions – joblessness, homelessness and a universal lack of compassion from the capitalism at-large under which we all function, but some struggle to survive.”
As a fine (if literal) example of this, the album opens with ‘I Need A Dollar’:
Well I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar is what I need
Well I don’t know if I’m walking on solid ground
Cause everything around me is falling down
And all I want – is for someone – to help me
‘Miss Fortune’ slips into a laid-back reggae groove, a cautionary tale of an overspending partner:
When she put the ring on her finger, everything started to change
And I looked at myself in the mirror, and oh I was looking strange
She had me out everyday spending money, and all kinds of ridiculous things
See I forgot what life was all about, Little Miss Fortune was to blame
‘Life So Hard’ begins with a somber observation:
The key to everything everybody here in America is the money…
This is a new kind of soul, with a 21st century social conscience. Put on your best suit and fire up ‘Hey Brother’. You’ll be strutting about like a 70s dancing machine within about 30 seconds.
If you don’t buy the album, download I Need A Dollar, Miss Fortune & Hey Brother.