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I want you to look past the fact that this fellow from St. Paul, Minnesota is wearing a doo-rag.

Ignore, for a moment, the monochrome outfits, and please disregard the gold chain hanging from his neck for a second. Just…put the look out of your mind, and listen to the guy’s voice.

Hopefully, that’s not quite what you were expecting. To me, that disconnect is part of the reason Spooky Black is so interesting: he’s honest and actually decent.

Vocally, at least, he’s a little bit similar to Oliver Sims. They both have that breathy, wistful quality to their voices. The difference is that the XX are emotional in a stark and muted way. If they started dropping lines about being wrapped in silk robes and blowin’ clouds and closing curtains, Oliver would be raising eyebrows, too.

Spook doesn’t stray too far from the typical R&B chatter. Broken hearts. Bad bitches. Tender moments. He’s a little like the Weeknd in that way, but not as reckless with people. The Weeknd doesn’t love anyone. For Spook, being in love is the problem.

I’m not saying he’s the next Keith Sweat, or Maxwell, or even the Weeknd. Spooky Black has his moments. His voice stays in the smooth R&B groove he’s carved out for himself, which is fine really. Nate Dogg built his entire career working inside a specific vocal range; there’s no reason Lil’ Spook can’t do the same.

This is one of those cases where it’s fun to watch a new artist accumulate attention. Roll back the clock on his Soundcloud to some of his earlier stuff for a good contrast between where he’s at now versus about six months ago. His style has changed, he’s found a partner in Bobby Raps, the production has gotten leagues better… Even WorldstarHipHop, of all places, has stoked a fervent fan base for his music.

I don’t know what the existence/growing popularity of Spooky Black “means” to greater music culture. Yeah, this white guy in a doo-rag singing R&B could easily be seen as mocking, but I don’t really think it is. I’m assuming that’s a culture thing. What’s frequently assumed about “black” culture in regards to hip-hop style is that it’s race based: it’s really not. The angry cries of racial appropriation would ring true if Spooky Black wasn’t already a part of hip-hop culture. He’s just a part of the new, internet-powered, cloud-rap, post-modern hip-hop world. All you need to do is listen for a second to understand that.

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