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Aloe Blacc releases his major label breakthrough "Lift Your Spirit"
on March 11, 2014
Once upon a time on YouTube, neo-soul singer Eric Roberson proclaimed that the best R&B albums of recent years were done by hip hop artists. As the interviewer was puzzled by his statement, he went on to explain himself further. He cited such albums like Lauryn Hill's "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill", Andre 3000's half of the OutKast double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" and Cee-Lo Green's "The Lady Killer". Joining that realm is rapper turned singer Aloe Blacc, who got his start as one-half of the duo Emanon. He and his partner Exile crafted three great but overlooked albums in the late 90's and early 2000's. Ironically, the duo wouldn't achieve fame until after they broke up. Exile garnered attention for his 2007 collaboration LP with Blu "Below The Heavens", while Aloe would achieve fame with his sophomore album "Good Things" with the hit single "I Need A Dollar". From there, the song took him to higher places- such as having his song as the theme to the HBO series "How To Make It In America". He also found himself singing the vocals on the song "Wake Me Up" for Swedish DJ Avicii, which lead him to a recording contract with Interscope Records.
Prior to releasing his debut, he released the EP "Wake Me Up" in 2013. He recorded several more songs for what became his major label debut "Lift Your Spirit". Originally released in the UK in Fall 2013, the album was finally released stateside in March 2014. Most of the record was produced by Self Scientific member/producer DJ Khalil, who's best known for his work with Eminem, Jay-Z, Skyzoo and the Clipse. Despite the obvious connections to hip hop, this album has more in common with singer-songwriters of yesteryear like Bill Withers, Terry Callier and Richie Havens. The album leads off with the acoustic remake of the song "Wake Me Up", which leads into the Elton John sampling single "The Man". He gets production help from The Neptunes' Pharrell Williams on the song about caring for our fellow man "Love Is The Answer". Former Dr. Dre session musician Theron Feemster (Mary J. Blige, ZZ Ward) produces the blatant pop single "Wanna Be With You". The production team Rock Mafia hands in the song "Ticking Bomb", which draws a clear influence from Johnny Cash. Aloe sings from the perspective of a career criminal on "Soldier In The City", while placing humanity over material things on "Here Today". Overall, Aloe Blacc's "Lift Your Spirit" is a great album from an industry veteran. While the album leans heavily toward a more mainstream sound, in the end the songs are well written and produced- and that's saying a lot in today's current pop music climate.