[7 October 2009]
Pacific Northwest emcee D. Black’s sophomore effort clearly wears its focus on its sleeve—the concept of ascending or Ali’Yah. Don’t worry; he isn’t just spitting about religion. Like any artist with a passion, Black embraces that passion and puts it on full display. For that reason alone, this record is worth hearing at least once. What will bring you back for more listens, though, will be the beats, which are worth drooling over. With blazing sonic backdrops from Jake One, Vitamin D, and D.Black himself, this multi-talented artist was certainly blessed by the hip-hop gods.
Nary a weak beat can be found from the soothing opener “Alter Call” (Darrius Willrich) to the jaw-dropping “The Return” and “Wake Up”, both by Jake One. In particular, “What I Do” is an exceptionally powerful joint, thanks in part to Vitamin D’s production full of heavy drums, organs, and a choir. It’s like the hip-hop version of church—except you don’t feel like you’re being preached to. Black’s demeanor is laid-back, though strong. He’s a poignant speaker, but he doesn’t shove it down your throat. It is because of that quality Black inherently hits the wall. He is simply unable to match his lyrical passion because his delivery and flow are missing a needed punch to take his words to the next level.
Everything else, though, is so well done it hurts. Aside from the aforementioned stunning production, a strong cohesion exists in terms of subject matter and concept. D.Black sticks to the meaning of Ali’Yah closely. He and his production team will bring you right to the musical cloud nine now and then. It’s just a shame D.Black struggles to keep you there for a permanent residence.