Given his stage name is Gift of Gab, even a gangsta rap fan can figure out who handles the mic duties in Bay Area duo Blackalicious. For over a decade, the lyrical ace has laid down right on, consciousness-raising rhymes on albums such as 2002's career-establishing Blazing Arrow and 20O5's The Gift.
Even more than the 200,000-selling Arrow, the new CD establishes the act as aces able to move in both underground and mainstream turf with a fans ranging from hardcores to hippies.
"We've been able to build that following without a mega hit, brick by brick and I'd rather have done it like this," says Gift Of Gab. "Now we can tour anywhere, anytime we like and they're there for the journey."
Those who've travelled with these guys before know that the present configuration includes Gab, DJ Chief Xcel, and live musicians and back-up singers. As though inspired by working with the likes of George Clinton and others, the goal of the show now is to prove there ain't no party like a B-funk party and a b-funk party don't stop.
"Money and economics have really dictated how underground hip hop can be presented as an art. That's what it is first, but if you watch a lot of videos, you might think it can only be presented in one predictable way, "For us, live musicians in concert were required to forward our art right now."
By next tour and CD, it might be robots. Part of DJ Shadow's Quannum Projects collective, Blackalicious and its associates are always advancing the cause of West Coast hip hop.
"All of us continue to push ourselves, studying and incorporating other music; be it funk, jazz, opera, world and rock 'n' roll into the mix. We don't ever want our sound to become predictable. If it's different, something we've never done, but it still sounds somehow universal than we're doing it right."
Busy tours to South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Europe and Canada have been very good to the Quannum stable. Gab says the newest signee is Sino-Brazilian São Paulo MC Curumin. Recent releases from tourmates Pigeon John, Lifesavas and Fatlip with Omni are all moving him as well, but the real rush is working on his second solo album.
It's due to drop in the fall.
By Stuart Derdeyn
Music Reporter – Vancouver Province
April 20, 2006