If you love hip-hop, you a) have heard of Blackalicious and/or own copies of their music; or, b) have never heard of this group and need an introduction to one of hip-hop’s most important groups.
Blackalicious is considered to be a successful “underground” group, which is shorthand for “they’re great but they’ll never get much radio airplay, nor will they top the sales charts.”
MC The Gift of Gab and DJ Chief XCel are writing a new chapter in hip hop history. Blackalicious produces intellectually challenging and sonically pleasing music that provides a notable counterpoint to today’s chart-topping rap music.
To get a sense of what Blackalicious is all about, here are some lyrics from “Shallow Days”, a song from the group’s first full-length CD, Nia:
“It’s time for a new day
An era in rap, conscious styles,
Makin’ them aware of the happenings
But their ears seem more steered towards
Self-annihilation so then they might laugh
And write this off, like I’m out here just
Blowing wind, maybe label us soft or unreal,
Something they can’t feel, while they keep yelling
‘Murder murder murder, kill kill kill’
I just keep movin’ on…”
“Nia” means “purpose” in Swahili. The Gift Of Gab, Blackalicious’ fantabulous MC, rhymes with a purpose, but this is not a retread of De La Soul’s “Daisy Age”. Blackalicious rocks and Gab is one of the most gifted MCs in the game.
My favorite cut on Blazing Arrow is “Nowhere Fast”. To some long-time fans of Blackalicious, this R&B-sounding track may represent the worst of what happens when a group signs on to a major label. Yes, this track is slick and radio-friendly, but it still presents the group at its best: Gab’s talented rhyming, a positive message and a strong music bed.
Blazing Arrow guest stars include proto-rapper and jazz legend Gil Scott-Heron, Chali 2NA and Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5 and Ben Harper. Poet Saul Williams delivers a transfixing rant on “Release”.
This CD holds up to and is worthy of repeated listening. Check out Blazing Arrow, then get a copy of Nia.
I look forward to more great work by this trailblazing group.