"It's Black again
And I'm back to win
Change the game
Shape the lanes
Up the range
Fresh off of '08
When they scream my name...
From "What I Do"
So begins the sophomore release by D. Black entitled "Ali'Yah." The Seattle-based emcee and producer indulges the listener with his soulful new project, which proves that he deserves to be the flagship artist of his Sportin' Life Records. It's an album that you can almost immediately recognize will be a solid offering.
D. Black was an unknown until he was given the opportunity to drop a stellar verse on Jake One's solid "White Van Music" album. That's the only window he needed. Add an ingredient of Vitamin D, the renowned underground producer that mentored him, and you have a problem – in a good way.
"Yesterday" is the seemingly mandatory ‘back in the day' joint with an inspirational overtone pushing for an optimistic present and future. Similar to many of tracks herein, this one relies on a heavy dosage of soul-infusion. Powerful horns, handclaps and a silky smooth chorus from Marissa converge to create a truly powerful song.
"Keep on Going" is strikingly similar as it sticks with the theme of perseverance. D. Black rhymes over a J.Dilla-esqe backdrop, compliments of Vitamin D.
I try to "Let it Go" but I can't stop gushing about the album as it progresses forward. A thunderous bass line and emotive harmonizing perpetuate "Let It Go". Here D. Black touches on some really deep issues with lines like "I wonder if I struggle because I'm black/Or do I struggle because I'm black?" which can be interpreted two ways depending on if you read the second usage of the word black as his name or the color of his skin. This is one of the nicest joints I've had the pleasure of hearing so far this year.
Though the album does tend to stick to a true formula there are moments that it strays enough to keep it from becoming monotonous. "Sugar," for instance, has a smooth R&B flavor to it without too much candy coating.
The qualms I have with the album are very minor. "Blow the Trump" and the introduction "Alter Care," to a lesser extent, are needless instrumental tracks. That's not to say that they are poor, but I hate to see a waste of good production. Second, I would venture to say that D. Black is superior when working with mid-tempo tracks as opposed to the high-tempo tracks as they tend to drown out his surprisingly high-pitched voice for an emcee of his stature.
The origin of the term "ali'yah" means ascent. D. Black does not just ascend, but he truly transcends his underground status with a rock solid album that deserves as much attention as the latest from Raekwon. Become a believer.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: October 6, 2009