and Joanna Davila
Once You Go Blak
****1/2 (at least)
Rewind: fuck it’s 1995 and hip hop is actually progressing. ‘Cot damn, I ran into Baby Blak at Gino’s Philly Cheese Steaks and hopped in the Delorean to 2003 with his CD; the world’s a melting pastel rainbow of gayness occupied by rappers that may as well tuck their weens a la Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs), who are kidnapping more than just suburban teens.
Rap’s as natural as the flavor up in lil’ jugs, blue raspberries making the world think that it grows on trees or belongs in fine bushes. Luda’s taking the world to hell fast and furiously, pop out the Chicken and Beer, nah fuck that; Baby Blak owns the block.
BBE (Barely Breaking Even) is now ruling all independent rap record labels; Definitve Jux got the five-millionth-visitor-to-www.supertitties.com-virus and their whole system crashed, bleep bloop, woomp woop. By this point, Once You Go Blak, the most veteran sounding rookie record since Illmatic should be in every deck, coast to coast, just like the guest spots on “No Coast Allstars.”
Producers afflicted with that beautiful bane of actually digging and scratching for that hepatitis-styled infectious shit shut down all systems, fill their syringes with that Beanie Sigel-aggro Nas-smooth flow vocal blend, Blak’s got it. P-Smoova just received the Nobel Pete Rock Prize for resurrecting the reason, that’s it: resurrecting the reason, “The Youth” and “Daddy Dearest” are pure powder.
Nowadays cats that became something are nothing, Common gone Lenny Kravitz, Prodigy gone crackhead, others just gone; hip hop is on its last legs but we got a new femur, Baby Blak. Sounding like your favorite Fiddy grunt, but on his own, no white man’s hand up his ass moving lips and chips like slavery ships. On Blak’s epitaph, well into the latter half of the 21st century: Keeping the Dead Alive. Buy, copy, steal this shit! Once You Go Blak… well y’all know the resta that.
Honestly, don’t rest ’til you understand what I’m talking about.
Fuse the sounds of Norah Jones and Fiona Apple, add the bedroom looks of Vanessa Carlton, dust on some freckles and you have Chicago based singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata. This EP, her major label debut, leaves you wondering if Yamagata, all artsy hot as she is, will even make an LP.
From the starting notes of the piano on the initial track, “Collide,” Yamagata’s slow and raspy voice utters the lyrics, “I’ll fascinate you…for a while,” which is literally all she does, burning out quick fast before she finishes the disc’s hidden track – and this is an EP.
Yamagata’s press release boasts of “immeasurable appeal” and an “expanse of talent,” yet it feels as though this drowsy folk style lyricism has been done again and again. The third track, “Worn Down,” might sound familiar, but that means you’ve watched “Charmed” – the WB show about three witches (it’s even on the soundtrack), which doesn’t bode well for your musical taste (again, the press release).
As for the rest of the tracks, you’ll wish they were more consistent with the dreamy, purplish-afternoon depicted on the cover, which evokes emotions of romantic longing, sadness and hip nostalgia. Even if you’re in a dreary mood, for now, verdict says Yamagata should reinvent herself and try to be less “Worn Down.” But, don’t count her out just yet – the cover art is just that good.
– Joanna Davila