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Aloe Blacc

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.