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Aloe Blacc

Shine Through (Stones Throw Records)

Aloe Blacc has been unfairly smeared as the indie R. Kelly, an onerous association that shortchanges Blacc's depth, versatility and amazing absorption of everything from A Tribe Called Quest and Isaac Hayes to slippery salsa and down-tempo electronica. Covering Sam Cooke's spare hymn "Long Time Coming," Blacc transforms the cut into a P-Funk torch song, circled in harp samples and deep drops of bass that fall like lead tears. Then, on a dime, he switches gears, strips away all the otherworldly beats and sings "Busking," an a cappella ode to waiting for the bus. Meanwhile, Latin-scorched tracks such as "Bailar - Scene 1" aren't mere border-city drive-bys: Blacc flows effortlessly in and out of Spanish, adds some Tito Puente-esque horns and creates a serious sensuous chemistry rather than just a hip-hop Shakira dry hump. This is the way a hip-licking groove should be laid out: Simultaneously cutting-edge and deeply entrenched in the classics, Shine Through is the soul record of the year.

 
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