“The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 2” is the 12th album by SmartBlackKid, and the second volume of his “Best of” series, showcasing select songs from his 10 album catalog. The former lead guitarist with The Lo Frequency and Bullyfoot Massive, SmartBlackKid is a Brooklyn based rock project, by singer, songwriter, musician and producer, Hakhi Alakhun. Hakhi’s style is a particularly personal and hybrid blend that sits somewhere between Prince and Lenny Kravitz. A go-getter independent artist, SmartBlackKid records his music at his home built SBK Studios and distributes his releases via his own indie label imprint, 4PJMusic Group. A self-taught keyboardist since the age of 9, Hakhi sings and plays all the instruments on his original compositions. And the proof is in the pudding, as they say, on this stunning 16 track rock-based album.
Put simply, what SmartBlackKid does so admirably well is the production of charming retro aural candy. Why retro? Well they simply don’t make rock songs this good anymore. Hakhi uses all the classic rock tools that come from the golden era – strong melody, luscious harmonies, colorful lyrical storytelling and a good dose of hard-nosed guitar-driven riffs and rhythms. “The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 2” represents the apex of his recording and personal career. This incorporates anything from glam-funk styles to an off kilter brand of straightforward, though cynical rock & roll.
From the outset, it is clear that SmartBlackKid aimed to shake things up on this recording. The opening track, “Who’s Really Down With Me?” bursts with an evanescent vitality, a growling guitar section and sharp percussion which complement Hakhi’s signature Kravitz-like vocal timbre. The second track, “Intelligent Blues”, reveals that SmartBlackKid has delved even further into his spoken word collection and came up with a captivating tune that carries a powerful message too.
“No Power Over Me”, “Reality’s Determined By The Mind” and “Brooklyn” sounds like some of the best songs a cohesive unit like Prince and the New Power Generation would have been capable of delivering, and are among the absolute highlights on this album. Funky, raw and rocking, with these tracks, SmartBlackKid forges a huge slice of what edgy urban rock and roll tastes like. “Brooklyn”, especially, sits at the top of my best list. In fact, it would be fair to say, on my behalf that “Brooklyn” is perhaps the most emotional, raw, and genuine piece of music SmartBlackKid has ever written.
“Racist Love Song” flaunts the acoustic guitar as a backdrop to Hakhi’s classic ballad formula, though one with heartfelt melody and lyricism stronger than anything in his previous discography. This comes a close second as my favorite track on the album. SmartBlackKid soon finds himself slipping on his most comfortable rock n’ roll shoes and following a memorable stroll down some of his more crunchier numbers, like the “The Middle” and “Queens”. “The Fall” sees Hakhi rope in some rap flavors into his musical equation, before branching out into the slippery and eclectic “In A Vortex”.
The album closer, “The Arrival of Light” is a delectable piece of instrumental music along with a couple of others on the album. For even the most casual of listeners, “The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 2” is SmartBlackKid’s most accessible, instant, varied, experimental, and thus his most accomplished work to date. One that offers a plethora of earworm cuts. The 16 track album is a collection of tunes that are rough and unfiltered – which is probably the best way to assimilate your rock n roll. Hakhi Alakhun’s talent and delivery are intense, and we’re looking at a puzzle that has all pieces fitting in. This is one of those albums that insist on multiple listens to truly embrace what’s happening as your subconscious slowly begins identifying all the great songs embedded here.