Release Date: Mar 27, 2012
Record label: Quannum Projects
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, West Coast Rap
Gift of Gab is right as the literary Blackalicious frontman sounds like Biz Markie after a couple Ph. D. s, and while his 2012 release is filled with vibrant beats, it's still a lyricist lover's album at heart.
“If you know what the game is missin’, what you snorin’ fo?” asks Gift of Gab on the title track of his latest project, The Next Logical Progression. The Blackalicious emcee, who checked into the hospital for kidney failure just days before the this project drops, doesn’t find himself short on these types of reflective musings. On “Rise,” he says, “They say that substance is a thing of the past in Rap / And some would holla that it’s even a handicap / I wanna open up eyes but I find / I talk more than I walk so it’s sorta like the blind leading the blind.” Something is troubling this Hip Hop vet as he seeks balance.
From his time in Blackalicious through his solo work and various collaborations, Gift of Gab has stood out for his rhymes, his vocabulary, and his flow. Whether he’s rapping over jazz-influenced beats, soul samples, or outer space effects, Gab’s gotten a generally positive message across in memorable ways. All that’s still present on The Next Logical Progression, but he’s made this record as accessible as anything he’s done in a long time and, in simplifying things, he’s taken a step forward.
For Blackalicious frontman Gift of Gab, his artistry has always lived outside of hip-hop’s fashionable margins, his old-school cadence as nostalgic as the dusty drum breaks he prefers. Over the years, that aesthetic has worked well for the veteran MC: he’s worked with everyone from ?uestlove to Zack de la Rocha, from Ledisi to the iconic Gil Scott-Heron. Through it all, the Gift of Gab has always remained true to himself, no matter how esoteric his blend of preachy rhymes and distinctive baritone.
At his age and at this stage in his career, you’d think that rapper Gift of Gab wouldn’t be struggling so much with his identity, but his newest solo album, The Next Logical Progression, is evidence of a serious identity crisis. Is he the old-school conscious rapper of his first solo album 4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up; a tough, wizened rap elder with no patience for the game; or a wannabe new-age luminary torn between the street and the yoga studio? Really, he’s all of these at once, and these conflicting personalities don’t mix well. He’s still got the talent and the jams — “Effed Up” is a pretty glorious romp through his old, self-deprecating swagger — but much of the material seems seriously out of touch, maybe even a bit flaky.
Gift of Gab (aka Timothy Parker) has been through a great deal lately. Best known (and much loved) as a member of Bay Area hip-hop duo Blackalicious, he's been suffering from declining health due to Type 1 diabetes, an issue that led to a scary bout with kidney failure and an imminent kidney transplant. Still, he remains sanguine on The Next Logical Progression, a solo effort that sees his trademark wit and flow intact.