Bluesy Ohio duo The Black Keys have managed to put together interesting albums by experimenting with different sounds and instruments, despite a simple two-man lineup. 2008's Attack and Release, the duo's first record recorded in an actual studio, took a huge step forward in part because they worked with producer Danger Mouse, of Gnarls Barkley fame. Now drummer Patrick Carney and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach have taken another giant leap forward by blending their swampy sound with a handful of rap and hip-hop artists.
Blakroc isn't "officially" a Black Keys record, but it may as well be. Musically it sounds like the same band that recorded Attack and Release, but the vocals—with guests like Mos Def, Ludicris and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard—are like nothing the band has released before. The results are mixed at times, but when the formula works, it smokes like a burning pile of Akron's finest rubber.
Highlights include "What You Do to Me," a sultry number where the raps take a support role to the sexy vocal trade-offs between Auerbach—who has one of the best voices in rock—and R&B singer Nicole Wray. When the grooves get this deep, there's no denying Blakroc is an experiment worth checking out.