Tag Archives: blaqstarr

Review: Blaqstarr – The Mixtape

After The Divine comes The Mixtape, Blaqstarr’s follow-up to the transcendent EP released earlier this year. At 25 tracks and just over an hour, the singularly titled mixtape is a definitive look at Blaq’s past, present and future.

Classic collaborations, like “Get Off” with Diplo and “Tween Me and You” with Nadastrom, are reminders of how far Blaqstarr’s sound has come. Compare those with ones with Steve Aoki (the nu-disco “Control Freak”), Will.i.am (the wavering, La Bouche-referencing “Meet Me Halfway”), and Akon (the auto-tuned ballad “Teardrop Shorty”). Gone are the Baltimore club beats; these new tracks are four-on-the-floor crowd pleasers, not the slick and sexy songs he built his name on.

But for fans of Blaqstarr’s old school material, not all is lost. His team-up with DJ Excel, “Rain Came Into My House,” is pure Bmore swagger. “Handstand,” with production by Switch and VIIXIIV (aka Sugu Arulpragasam, M.I.A.’s younger brother), is raw and sludgy. And one of the tape’s finest moments is a remix of the gunshot banger “Tote It,” featuring Lil Wayne (which has been floating around as “Told Y’all” for a while).

In an ironic turn, Blaqstarr teams up with the members of Black Star. “War of Roses” features Talib Kweli, and sounds like Steppenwolf with a club beat, and the moody, hip-hop infused “Kiss Me On My Lips” with Mos Def would fit in on The Divine.

Blaqstarr is a man stuck multiple worlds: the club sounds of his Baltimore home, the shimmering dance music of his LA residence, and the future funk of his boundless imagination all loom large in his work. The Mixtape, while straining under these pressures, does an admirable job of finding the common thread between varied genres and lets Blaqstarr shine.

Download: Blaqstarr – The Mixtape

EP Review: Blaqstarr – The Divine

Blaqstarr’s Divine EP is a dedication to feminine perfection and an offering to Gaia. But this is still a Blaqstarr record; like previous offerings, it’s hyperactive and sex-charged, albeit built more for the bedroom than the club. Over just six songs, Blaqstarr moves further down the rabbit hole, continuing to push and pull at the confines of Baltimore club music, crafting something more soulful and dramatic than ever before.

Serving as an introduction to the bizarre trip that follows, “All the World” kicks off the EP. Chopped vocal loops and frenetic live drums build to a crescendo under Blaqstarr’s off-time (and ocassionally off-key) crooning. The title track picks up where “All the World” left off, focusing those Neptunesque live drums and bouncy melody. It builds predictably until the mid-song breakdown. Over droning guitars and an underlying Bmore beat, Blaq freaks out with a call-and-response refrain of “Can I lick your ice cream?” Bringing both strands back together is the kind of chaos for which he’s known.

One of the strongest songs on the EP is actually a reworking of a track that has been around since at least 2007. “Rider Girl” is a poignant tribute to deceased Baltimore legend K Swift. Falling somewhere between “Supastarr” and “Automatic Lover” in Blaqstarr’s body of work, the song serves as a bridge between the club music that Swift championed and the new school that Blaqstarr owns and operates.

The strength of the EP is Blaqstarr’s skill in digging deeper into the roots and relatives of Baltimore club, refreshing a sound that is starting to stagnate. “Wonder Woman” is a bluesy jam steeped in P-funk, conjuring images of Blaq armed with just an acoustic guitar. His off-kilter line “she licked the gun / when she done / and said revenge is sweet” and the ghost of a club beat just below the surface are both unnerving and enticing. “Oh My Darlin” is Blaqstarr at his most minimal, featuring only haunting synth lines, wistful vocals, and a Prince meets Kanye rhythm. The EP closes with the even-more melancholy “Turning Out,” a true 808 heartbreaker.

While The Divine might not feature a breakthrough single like “Shake It to the Ground,” it does more to cement Blaqstarr as an essential voice in music – someone unafraid to confront expectations and worship in his own way.