BlakRoc, a collaboration between Ohio garage-bluesmen the Black Keys and artists such as Ludacris, Mos Def and Jay-Z, is gimmicky and NPR-ready but stands as '09's most interesting hip-hop approach.

BlakRoc, ‘BlakRoc’ (BlakRoc)

BlakRoc is a bright spot in a dismal year for hip-hop. Which is tough to admit: The eponymous album — a collaboration between Ohio garage-bluesmen the Black Keys and a slew of notable MCs — is gimmicky and NPR-ready but stands as ’09’s most interesting hip-hop approach.

Let the compliment stand un-backhanded. BlakRoc deepens the louche blues inherent to hip-hop’s musicality and lyricism. Keys drummer Patrick Carney has always played with spare, bass-heavy aggression, fundamental to live-band hip-hop. Listen as he goes toe-to-toe with Ludacris and an exhumed ODB on “Coochie” (massive, bombastic) and simmers behind Jay-Z clone Noe on “Hard Times” (dark, haunting). Mos Def works typically soulful verses and backup vocals on a Jim Jones-rapped track; singer Nicole Wray spouts heartcrushing soul wherever she turns up, a vintage update to a stagnating tradition. ‘BlakRoc’ is due for release Friday.

Jonathan Zwickel, Special to The Seattle Times

More releases

this week

Beyoncé, “I Am … Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas” (Music World Music/Columbia)

Bill Cosby, “Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency” (Turtle Head/Redeye)

Rihanna, “Rated R” (Def Jam)

Shakira, “She Wolf” (Epic)