Chris Thomas King: Dirty South Hip-Hop Blues

Chris Thomas King makes his stand on the final, hidden track of Dirty South Hip-Hop Blues. “This is the blues of the 21st century and I don’t give a damn if you can’t get with me,” he raps over a funky guitar riff. True to his word, King is out to remake the blues in a postmodern image, like no one else is doing. He mashes blues with hip-hop, creating an original sound that sometimes mixes perfectly, often shows promise, and only rarely falls flat. There’s no doubt King can play the blues. Just listen to the barebones and beautiful acoustic blues of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” (which he played on the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou). His voice and guitar emote sorrow like Son House himself. He infuses those old-style blues qualities into the best of his postmodern blues. On “Revelations,” he samples Son House and sings lyrics from Robert Johnson’s “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day,” along with his own slide guitar and dance-club electronic beats. His update of “The Thrill Is Gone,” called “The Thrill Is Gone From Here,” features an uncanny B.B. King imitation on the fretboard, using it as a platform for a slick rap about the plight of urban life. While his best work is rooted in blues and adds hip-hop flavor, he swaps the combo on songs like “Welcome to da Jungle,” supporting his old school rap with subtle blues tones. Unfortunately, King strays into a CCM vibe on the trite “Gonna Take a Miracle.” A few other songs have neither blues grit nor hip-hop style, showing that 21st century blues is still a work in progress.

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