Pretoria-based emcee Blaklez, has been on the South African hip hop scene for a while now, initially coming to prominence as one half of The Anvils. Over the last couple years, he has released mixtapes and slew of free material in the build up to his much anticipated solo debut album.
In recent times Blaklez has become known for a lot more than the music – a very public spat with celebrity ex-girlfriend Dineo Ranaka making him a regular feature amongst the tabloids.
With Black Beast, we find Blaklez attempting to stake his claim as one of the country’s premier emcee’s and perhaps showing us why renowned hip hop publication XXL, named him one of SA’s 10 Hottest MC’s.
Blaklez is not the most technically gifted rapper, but rather his strength lies in the raspy cadence of his versatile flow and the directness of his lyrics. The album’s opener, ‘Before I Die’ finds Blaklez outlining his desire for success despite the obstacles faced. Spitting some of his most honest bars (“sometimes pain wanna make a brother fall flat/ but I’m still alive I lost my friend to a car crash’) over Krushal’sorchestra-influenced production makes for one of the album standouts. Blaklez is at his best when rhyming with this sort of raw honesty and self-analysis, exhibiting it on the cuts, ‘Look No Further’ and ‘Be Yourself’. On the latter rhyming, ” This girl rushing me I’m telling her to go slow/ Coz we just met so she loving what she don’t know/The world cold and its dishing out low blows/Like going to the bank and the money don’t show”.
The weakest points on the album come in the form of two love songs titled “Would You Love Me” and “Deep”. Despite P Dot O’s impressive appearance on the hook of the former, it is not enough to save Blaklez’s lackluster musings about whether his girl would still love him if he didn’t smell good or wasn’t strong enough. While the latter is full of cringe-worthy lines (including this gem, “Used to be a Tiger, but she left me coz I was a cheater/Now my heart is stuck in the Woods/She was the reason we used to be good”) and strangely enough features his ex-girlfriend Dineko.
Black Beast does showcase Blaklez’s ability to make club and radio-friendly hits. ‘Hush’, ‘Chaela’ and ‘Fly Away’ find Blaklez in his element, utilizing the versatility of his flow that appeals to the mainstream. The final stretch of the album is a strong one, featuring a couple of high profile guests coming to share some of the spotlight with the main star. Unfortunately for his fellow guests, J Lawless steals all the shine thanks to his showing on ‘Plain and Clear’, where he rips on a former lover with Yelawolf-esque delivery.
Black Beast is a solid, if not steady debut solo effort from the man sometimes referred to as ‘Showtime’. For the most part he plays to his strengths entertaining the listener with his presence and personality on the mic and some great records for pre-game drinks with the homies.
Thematically the album is limited and sometimes only reaches the surface level of the story, but there are moments within this album to suggest that Blaklez has the tools in his locker to grow. As the crown jewel in rising South African Hip Hop powerhouse, Cap City Records, we may be inclined to expect more from Blacklez, but the Black Beast may just be the stepping-stone needed towards a great second album.
By Brett Jacobs @MothaCityMike
Posted By Siphesihle Shaun Sekoati
Facebook:Siphesihle Shaun Sekoati