Published Jul 01, 2006Attempting to categorise Aloe Blacc may prove to be an exercise in futility. The versatile L.A.-based artist first started out as an MC in the hip-hop group Emanon, but on his striking debut solo salvo he hardly spits any rhymes. Aloe Blacc was a musician before he became an MC and he takes the listener on a dizzying trip through the musical Diaspora combining the Latin vibes derived from his Panamanian heritage with dips into dancehall, folk, digital R&B, classic soul, down-tempo house and a touch of hip-hop. Despite the danger of spreading himself too thin by covering such musical breadth, Aloe Blacc manages to corral his eclectic influences together. Despite the low-profile assists from Madlib and Oh No, Aloe Blaccs heartfelt voice and eclectic vision ensures a personal and spiritual potency. If anything it is the passion that informs these songs whether hes anxiously crooning at a bus stop or delivering a strident vow of self-affirmation that is the unifying force behind Shine Through.
You mention several pioneers and on "Whole World and pay homage to Sam Cooke. How do you invoke the past and not repeat it in your music? I just make the music the way that I feel it. And a lot of the influences are in me because I listen to a lot of those artists I mentioned. But the instrument that I play best is the trumpet, so for me to try and match Stevie Wonder on the keys is impossible, so I wont be able to make anything derivative of Stevie Wonder because I cant do what he does.
The song "Patria Mia seemed to speak to an overall theme of origins and history. How important is this song to you? "Patria Mia is a song that represents my heritage as a Panamanian but as a black Panamanian. Its a way for me to sing out and be proud of my heritage without fearing any kind of embarrassment or fear of being different. Because Im black in the U.S. so everybody assumes that Im African-American and probably a descendent of a slave family in the U.S., but Im not. For a long time people didnt know who I was or how I fit in with black America. Its a different type of environment. My parents are first generation Americans so growing up in a basically Panamanian household I didnt eat collard greens and fatback yknow. I ate fried plantain in my house. This song is really a way for me to say this is my soul, and my song is the way I let my soul shine. (Stones Throw)