Blackalicious, Blazing Arrow (2002)
Unlike fellow Quannum members DJ Shadow and Latyrx’s Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker, Blackalicious are more stylists than innovators. At his best, Gift of Gab vocally leaps over Chief Xcel’s productions, stacking verbs on top of one another in a clear, understated cadence without breaking apart the verse-chorus-verse structure. A prominent exception is “Chemical Calisthenics,” which finds them breaking atoms with Cut Chemist in dramatic fashion, one-upping the memorable “A to Z” from their A to G EP with stop-start rhymes split apart like compounds. Less successful is “Release,” which collects verses from Gift of Gab (with background vocals from Zach de la Rocha), Saul Williams, and Lyrics Born into an interminably long nine minutes. The music is classic neo-soul; guests include Ben Harper, patron saint Gil Scott-Heron, Jaguar Wright, and DJ Babu and Rakaa of Dilated Peoples. MCA Records.