Blackalicious
Blazing Arrow
(MCA)

The Gift of Gab, emcee of the Bay Area's Blackalicious, is the Rain Man of rap.

If you've ever seen him perform (with DJ/Producer Chief Xcel, Blackalicious' other half) you know what I'm talking about. His rhyming skills have evolved to a point that, at times, they resemble a psychological aberration akin to savantism; at others, they seem downright unnatural. His sometimes monotone, robotic delivery can reach a velocity and flow it takes repeated listening to comprehend as the first few times you find yourself a step behind where the Gab is leading you.

But don't mistake the Gab's gift as incoherent ramblings devoid of content. He's not rapping about Judge Wapner or buying his drawers at K-mart, oh no, he's talking about self-improvement and spiritual betterment of all kinds. Indeed, there is plenty of uplift in the Blackalicious get down. Peep his down-to-earth take on his place in the hiphop game: "So you ask how can I rap if I ain't thugged out pimpin' flossin' my ice, packin a gat, this is all I got, I want dough, I can't lie, but I'll never sell my soul and front inside of mainstreams eyes, the purest love is how I'm driven, set and reach for my goals, if nothing else I'll leave the world some songs that speak from the soul." And on Blazing Arrow, Gab and Xcel get plenty of help speaking from the soul with cameos from Quannum collective mates Lyrics Born, Lateef the Truth Speaker, Lifesavas (Portland represent!), and Joya Velarde, as well as Jurassic 5-ers, Dilated Peoples, Ben Harper, Zack De La Rocha and poets Gil Scott-Heron and Saul Williams. In the hands of the less skilled, such an eclectic mix of collabs might run the risk of coming off as a patchwork lacking cohesion, but Blazing Arrow is as focused as you please, with a warmth and inclusiveness that should seal Blackalicious' starting position on the team beside The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, and De La Soul.