Release Date: Sep 27, 2005
Record label: Anti
OutKast was only one of many rap artists to gain a profile among music fans of all stripes, even as they sold millions of records, but it must have been difficult for those in the hip-hop underground to greet their general commercial breakout with equanimity rather than jealousy. Big Boi and Andre 3000 became paragons of cool among teenagers and 30-somethings, owned the ears and wallets of generalist listeners as well as the critical cognoscenti, and earned glowing features in The Source and Rolling Stone. No doubt the San Francisco duo Blackalicious were watching OutKast as first Stankonia and then Speakerboxxx/The Love Below began crossing over, and though Blackalicious already commanded respect from thousands of hip-hop fans, their third full LP found them seeking out new audiences with a slightly greater emphasis on radio-ready pop (courtesy of soon-to-be single "Powers," a dead ringer for "Hey Ya").
This ambitious fifth album from Blackalicious - a Bay Area duo composed of Gift of Gab (words) and Chief Xcel (beats) - promises more than it delivers, although it does boast some breathtaking peaks. On the curtain-raising World of Vibrations, Gift of Gab spits hyperspeed tongue-twisters over choppy strings that melt into a pool of treacly funk, like a cosmically inclined Isaac Hayes. The celebratory, Sly Stone-style rock'n'soul of Powers is even better, and Blackalicious are decent enough to acknowledge their debt to George Clinton by inviting the man himself to mumble meaningfully through Lotus Flower.