Despite the untrimmed corners of D’Black’s beard in concordance with Leviticus 19:27 and his divinely titled album Ali’yah, Hebrew for “ascent,” the Seattle native’s sophomore LP for the most part sounds secular. With the exception of such songs as “Close to Yah,” and “Yah Have Mercy,” D’Black is indistinguishable from your run-of-mill conscious peace-and-equality preaching emcee. The contemplative Ali’yah does not merely publicize D’Black’s Messianic Hebrew roots, it comments on our imperfect world with a holy confidence.
But how articulate and/or effective is the message? Well, D’Black’s lyrics tend to wobble on the verbal fortitude meter. In a good shuffle, a line from “Bring It Back” like “We’ve all been affected with a virus known as conforming because we all hide us,” will pop out. In a lazy shuffle, one might hear something like this: “The difference between me and you is like the differences between green and blue.”
Throwaway lines aside, Ali’yah tingles with spiritual production. Vitamin D steps in on the polyphonic “Keep it Going,” an uplifting call to humanity. Fellow Seattle dweller Jake One (whose album White Van Music, D’Black can thank for his first national guest spot) cooks up a thumper on “The Return” along with an anonymous in-your-face female refrain. Yet, more than providing a consistent sound, the production on the album shows how much having many voices in unison can really convey spirituality. On tracks like the intro “Alter Call,” and the transcendent “Touch the Stars,” D’Black does not underestimate the power of a seraphic note or three.
Perhaps Ali’yah is aptly named for the Northwestern emcee, who recently inherited part ownership of the Sportn’ Life record label as a birthday gift from his dad. D’Black is continuing his national ascent, fresh off performances at big-time music festivals like Bumbershoot and The Capitol Block Party. As long as his rhyme game ascends as well, this young man seems skyward bound.