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Daniel Blacktin Impresses with “Daniel Blacktin:” Album Review

“Daniel Blacktin” by Daniel Blacktin

“Daniel Blacktin” by Daniel Blacktin

“Daniel Blacktin” Album Review

Many of battle raps’ biggest stars have crossed over into trappy production and melodic leaning tracks, as the battle sphere is currently highly saturated. But few have done so with the conviction and skill that Daniel Blacktin displays on his new eponymous album offering “Daniel Blacktin.” The veteran San Jose battle rapper is no novice to releasing weighty albums in the past, but this incarnation of Daniel Blacktin feels fresh, triumphant, and as hungry as if it were Blacktin’s first time in the booth. With bouncy and modern production throughout, tons of meaty bars to chew through like you’d expect from a Blacktin release, and a wide range of tracks on the LP, “Daniel Blacktin” satisfies on multiple fronts.

With the same name as his underground hit “Dab” featuring San Jose’s Dirtbag Dan, the albums’ opening track “D.A.B.” has some high expectations. The acronym stands for “Dabs and Baddies” this time, and Blacktin chews through the topic with hot bar after hot bar of weed inspired puns and punchlines. The crooning “I got dabs and baddies in my hideout” chorus rings through and adds a lot of braggadocios melody to the track each time it hits. And the adlibs are all well timed: adding energy and personality as Blacktin “goes off” in his rapping bag.

The second track “Gas Session” finds similar inspirations, but comes just as hard with the bars, as Blacktin opens the joint:

“I don’t give about a hook bitch, I’ma rap / I know haters in the mob they

give me daps”

There’s lots of hefty boasts in this cut, which you’d expect from an emcee who’s style is so influenced by battling. But as Blacktin continues “I’m one hundred times three,” it doesn’t feel like a battle stage but a life inspired trap or drill hit. Over booming bass Blacktin dances around the track, referencing Blackalicious and Gift of Gab right next to Thanos and his own personal struggles. Even as the bars land heavy and give listeners lots to eagerly replay, there’s a deep personal character and emotional exploration to Blacktin’s brags and punchlines that make this fit well as an album cut part of a larger journey.

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On “Ain’t Saucy Enough,” Blacktin flexes his vocal chops on disco styled production, with a sung hook that fits the track well. And it’s not just in the chorus; Blacktin gets sing-songy throughout, breaking up the “16 bars of heavy rap” formula and sprinkling in some truly catchy nuggets. There’s plenty of dissection worthy bars here as well, and overall the varied approach adds another layer to “Daniel Blacktin’s” wide sonic and subject matter canvas. It’s hard to place his sound exactly, but “Ain’t Saucy Enough” adds some Anderson Paak charm, fitting well between tracks that sound like they could have found their way to Kodak Black or Tech N9ne’s desk. Fans of all three will find something worthwhile in this cut, which masterfully demonstrates Blacktin’s versatility and resistance to being put in any battle rapper box.

On “Goated” Blacktin finds the track’s groove expertly, rapping smoothly to some trappy production with a west coast synth feel. Referencing the “greatest of all time” nomenclature, the track is more heavy boasts with Blacktin’s particular flavor. When he touches on cooking up throughout the album, there’s some entendre at play as we could be hearing about Blacktin’s fine cuisine day job or about his methods rendering rosin. And with tons of good weed bars on “Goated,” he asserts himself as one of the premiere wax enthusiast rappers, a lane that hasn’t been as saturated as weed raps and one that Blacktin is happy to explore all over “Daniel Blacktin.”

You can hate me it’s one of your emotions / going beast mode cause I’ve been in motion”

“Waste no Time” calls in Sacramento veteran Chuuwee for the feature, and the rare collaborative joint on an album mostly populated by tidy Blacktin solo cuts really stands out. With some tasteful auto-tune throughout, Blacktin reflects on some of his most well trodden subject matters on the album so far: dabs, working hard outside of the trap, putting his city on the map, all crafted as ultimately digestible and punch line heavy. When Chuuwee slides onto the track, it’s obvious it’s more than just another feature for him, as the Sacramento rapper opens up about hard times and being on your last hundred dollars, all represented as being in his past. The track reads overall as triumphant, and while I’m sure Blacktin could have gone in for another verse, the short simple format of “Waste no Time” fits the joints’ title theme but also gives it tons of replay value. If you want to hear that smooth verse from either MC again, you’ll just have to leave this one on repeat.

On “Album of the Year” Blacktin again finds a perfect flow to boast and dance all over the track. Turning his eyes to the industry next, “Album of the Year” is optimistic in its outlook and feels fitting after a dense album populated by so many quotable bars. “I‘be been stoic now it’s not a frown” Blacktin clarifies on his attitude, while pondering on what it felt like to not get invited into rooms in the past. In expert storytelling cadence, Blacktin just as easily references Dabs and primary school detention; his sung chorus stands out as well, but it’s in the straightforward and reflective couplets of his verse that this song finds its true character. And as another short cut that demands replay attention, “Album of the Year” continues Blacktin’s approach of making easily digested and shorter tracks in an underground polluted with six minute songs.

“No Destination” and “Bag” close out the album strong, and take a very disparate approach to telling Blacktin’s story. On “No Destination” the San Jose rooted Emcee again gets reflective about the perils and struggles of the underground rap lifestyle; on “Bag” Blacktin turns his eyes to the future and demands his just due as one of rap’s budding elites. The delivery on “Bag” feels inspired by Drake or Travis Scott in points, and Blacktin asserts that he is every bit as deserving as some of those mainstream names of securing a bag of his own. Ultimately, the album winds down where it started, with big boasts nestled along introspective lyrics and top notch storytelling. You could zoom in on any Blacktin verse from the project, not just these last two tracks, and find a little bit of everything expertly weaved into catchy, easily digested flows.

“Daniel Blacktin” Overall Album Impressions

If you enter “Daniel Blacktin” and push play with a host of expectations about what you’re gonna hear from an underground battle rap mainstay, you’re going to find a lot here that surprises you. With bouncy guitar and trap influenced beats that have a lot of west coast flavor, punchlines and bars for days that demand replay attention, and an overall well packaged eponymous album, “Daniel Blacktin” satisfied a lot of different rap cravings in one project. There’s something for everyone here, from battle rap mega fans to casual rap listeners that reach for Migos or Kodak Black over Daylyt. The lyrical references are a mix of personality specific and easily accessible, giving the album an overall digestible feel that will be approachable to folks that aren’t familiar with the hardcore or underground scenes. Sparse features and shorter tracks throughout serve Blacktin well, centering an emcee who’s excited to tell his story and has all the lyrical and melodic tools to do so. Start this one on a drive and give yourself lots of time to respin each track, and you’ll be fully submerged in “Daniel Blacktin,” a fresh assertion from a veteran rapper that will leave listeners hungry for more

© 2023 Cassidy Kakin

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