Gift of Gab, the verbally adept (as his name rightfully implies) MC and one half of the seminal indie hip-hop group Blackalicious, has certainly been busy since the last Blackalicious album, The Craft, came out in 2005. It's been more than a while, though, since he's sounded as quick and witty and fun as he did on either of his group's first two albums (2002's Blazing Arrow and 2000's phenomenal Nia). Gab's 2005 solo debut felt unfocused and spacy, his mixtapes not much better, and while his work as part of the Mighty Underdogs (with fellow Quammie Lateef and Crown City Rockers producer Headnodic) had moments that reaffirmed why he's been such a lauded rapper, it didn't quite connect the way his earlier efforts did.
Skilled MC dons space suit once again, but remains Earthbound Never tell Gift of Gab the odds. If the languid MC suddenly found himself navigating the asteroid field in Empire Strikes Back, the Millennium Falcon’s every evasive maneuver depending on the bob and weave of his flow, he’d fly the ship to safety like a hip-hop Han Solo. Keeping busy as partner in rhyme to DJ and production specialist Chief Xcel in lauded duo Blackalicious, Gab took five years to follow his masterful solo debut 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, a record as obsessed with scientific discovery as spiritual awakening.
Gift of Gab is nothing if not infectious to listen to. His voice and his flow are really just extensions of the instrumentation behind him, a blistering lead to lay over the laid-back funk or spacey bleeps in the background. Whether on his own, or as part of Blackalicious, Gift of Gab offers something simultaneously exciting and comforting. You know his wordplay will be ridiculously fast—as in, why bother trying to keep up with it in spots—and, on his best stuff, that is enough to make the track work.