Previously one of the most controversial rappers on the German urban scene, self-proclaimed King of Rap Kool Savas appears to have mellowed judging by his third solo album, Aura. Indeed, other than the vinyl scratching battle rap of "Optimale Nutzung Unserer Ressourcen," there's little sign of the aggression that defined his early career, with the former Masters of Rap MC opting to showcase a more introspective and melancholic side to his personality instead. A slightly menacing air still hangs over its 12 tracks, whether it's the Hammer horror-style synths on the skittering hip-hop of "Intro/Der Letzte Meiner Gattung," the gothic chanting and ominous strings on the nostalgic "Und Dann Kam Essah," or the haunting atmospherics and chopped-up samples of "Stampf." But backed by an array of producers including DJ Smoove, Melbeatz, and 7inch, Savas also showcases a maturity missing from his notoriously homophobic and misogynistic back catalog, as evident on the lolloping urban electro of "Nie Mehr Gehn" and the lilting piano-led "Die Stimme," both of which address his artistic ambitions, and the melancholic military-themed collaboration with the Scala Choir on a reworking of Saltatio Mortis' "Nichts Bleibt Mehr." Alongside the soulful tones of Xavier Naidoo ("LMS 2012") and the breakneck-speed delivery of Olli Banjo ("Echo"), the latter's choral harmonies are the only guest spots on a record that suggests Savas now has the confidence to go it alone, while his renowned use of samples is restricted to the bubbling synths of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" on the minimal "King of Rap/Ein Wunder" and Hans Zimmer's dramatic score for Inception on the Eminem-esque title track. A surprisingly mellow affair, Aura feels like the start of a new chapter from an artist who's now ready to embrace his "elder statesman of German rap" status.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien