I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear about this project - The Black Keys, a blues/garage rock act I’ve followed and enjoyed for years, was going to team up with a wide array of hip hop artists to make an album. I’m sold.

Listening to the album, the results are a bit more mixed than I’d hoped for. I think the biggest disappointment for me is that the album opens with the song, “Coochie,” with ODB and Ludacris laying down rhymes that are less than inspired about a subject matter that I was hoping this album wouldn’t pander to.

The rest of the album is full of ups and downs. For most of the album, the Black Keys come up with some interesting music for the artists to rhyme over, but never come up with the big moments like they did time and again on their last album, Attack and Release, which made it such a rewarding listen.

Outside of this complaint, almost none of the artists seem to take this collaboration to say something out of the ordinary. The only artist that stands out and seems really invested in the project as a chance to do something different is Mos Def. “Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)” is clearly the stand out track of the album for this reason.

“Hope You’re Happy” almost turned out great with the play of Q-Tip and Nicole Wray over some great grooves laid down by the Keys, but is completely undone by some terribly trite rhymes from Billy Danze. RZA was never as much an emcee as he was a producer, but his rhymes on this album seem to be rough draft at best. The phrase “phoned-in” comes to mind.

I don’t know if I had different expectations if I might have enjoyed this album more for what it is, but I was expecting this album to be one of my favorite releases of 2009, and it definitely came up short. Hopefully there will be a second album, because I still think the Black Keys can get this right, maybe by trimming some of the fat and expanding on what worked.