As a special treat, there is also a free download linked below the review text and score.
Both rapper Aarophat and producer Illastrate have been bouncing around the underground scene for several years. From what I have read, Aaro was associated with Rawkus – perhaps during the label’s Rawkus 50 – and he was also connected to Fat Beats. As for Illa, he has made beats for the likes of Tiye Phoenix and the Invizzbl Men, the duo that released last year’s solid The Unveiling. With those credentials it would only make sense that the pairing of Aaro and Illa would be a surefire hit. And that is exactly what Black Noise equates to, even with its nitpicky shortcomings.
As someone who hears a plethora of new albums every-damned-day (I’m not bragging), it’s always appreciated when an artist or group sets the pace from the get-go. And that’s just what Black Noise does with “Black Noise Intro”, even if Aaro falls back and has guest female emcee Boog Brown spit the track’s only bars. While you don’t hear the album’s frontman, you are treated to the dusty-drums and sample-driven beats that make this album sonically brilliant. Also, Illa fully displays his ability to dig a low-end with the best of them, which was an ample surprise considering this is an underground record. In other words, this album bumps. And it will destroy your system or headphones if listened to properly.
Illastrate’s drums are so grimy and crunchy that you cannot help but think of some of New York’s finer producers. But here’s the thing: Illa isn’t from the NYC. He actually hails from Atlanta, Georgia. And his partner in crime on here, Aarophat, is from Ohio. Yet, as a duo, they sound like the best of what this entire country has to offer. Also, in a way, they display a lot of the same talents that made Diamond District’s In The Ruff so enjoyable. Like DD, Black Noise has a sound that’s clearly influenced by the nation’s hip-hop hotbeds.
But the duo doesn’t pigeonhole itself. And when you keep hitting repeat on bangers like “Going Places” and “Center Stage”, you won’t care as much about where they are from as much as you will want to know where you can find their other albums. Other tracks likely to evoke a similar craving include the dub-influenced burner “Whatchagannado”; the mellow party joint built on a wall-of-noise “Y.A.M.”; and one of the record’s highlights, “Chips”, which is another neck-breaking banger filled with socially-aware messages.
But even with all of that praise, this record is still not perfect, as the score indicates. It’s a heady listen, which results in it dragging at times. Also, do not expect to fall in love with this record at first listen. The first few tracks, though solid, take time to build. And musically, everything, from the lyrics to beats, has a rough-around-the-edges vibe that is simultaneously endearing and indicative of artists who have some places to grow. Yet, do not let that sway your interest. Black Noise is very much a near-great album that will consistently work its way into your weekly, if not daily, rotation.
As a special treat, Illastrate offered up a free download of Black Noise leftover “Goin’ Places (Remix)” featuring Dev Husky. Again, this track isn’t featured on the album, but you can download it by clicking here.