Aloe Blacc, a onetime member of the L.A. hip-hop group Emanon, glides through his solo debut, Shine Through, with panache. Save for a few moments, he doesn't rap. Instead, he sings a workingman's blues on "Busking," renders a lively Afrobeat version of John Legend's "Ordinary People," and then easily switches to smooth player on "Bailar." He produces most of the tracks, too. Many of them, particularly "Bailar" and the previously released single "Arrive," are partly indebted to the late Jay Dee's affinity for sharp, clicking beats and snappy high-hat percussion. It would be easy to compare Aloe Blacc's Shine Through to other artists, particularly Mos Def and his classic Black on Both Sides. But Blacc's restless creativity and absorption of genres is subtle and natural in relation to that rapper turned actor's memorably bravura turn. Even when he stumbles on "Long Time Coming," a failed attempt at covering Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," he doesn't call attention to himself, but to the relative qualities of the performance. It makes his triumphs and there are several on this 16-track disc appear effortless.
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