Blackalicious Biography

This Bay Area hip-hop duo, comprising MC The Gift Of Gab (Tim J. Parker, USA) and DJ Chief Xcel (b. Xavier Mosley, USA), has attracted the same attention as the members of the east coast-based Black Star crew for their promotion of a new ‘conscious’ rap agenda. Gab and Xcel debuted in 1995 with the acclaimed Melodica EP, setting out their stall on cuts such as ‘Rhymes For The Deaf’ and ‘Swan Lake’. Plans for a full-length follow-up were put on hold as the duo concentrated their energies on setting up the Quannum label with compatriots DJ Shadow and the Latyrx crew, with whom they had previously recorded for the Sacramento-based label Solesides. A 1999 album, Spectrum, was released under the Quannum moniker, setting the scene for the release of the A2G EP and the duo’s long-playing debut. Nia pursued the same themes as the earlier release, attacking the gun, drug and sex culture of gangsta rap and promoting a new adherence to the spiritual and political values of black nationalists. Poet Nikki Giovanni contributed a spoken word version of her poem ‘Ego Trip’, while Gab’s declamatory style reached a peak of righteous anger on tracks such as ‘Shallow Days’ and ‘Deception’. Chief Xcel’s production, meanwhile, sampled from an eclectic range of black music styles, including an old field chant on the ‘Smithzonian Institute Of Rhyme’.

A major label recording contract ensued, with the duo teaming up with guest artists including Gil Scott-Heron, Ben Harper and Zack De La Rocha (Rage Against The Machine) to record their MCA debut, Blazing Arrow. This compelling 2002 set confirmed Blackalicious’ position at the forefront of conscious rap. The Gift Of Gab released his solo debut, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, two years later. Blackalicious returned in late 2005 with their debut for the Anti label, The Craft.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.