By Casey Brown
Blackalicious is backalicious! Well, half of the ‘90s hip-hop duo, that is. Today (March 27th), Gift of Gab (aka Gabby T) is to release his 3rd solo album, The Next Logical Progression. The sound is deliciously old school and features a rich funk montage. Piano loops abound, as do a Motown chorus, the occasional record scratch and even a spaceship-like pew-pew every now and then. And that’s just the beginning. Perhaps the album is in fact a “natural progression” from Gift of Gab’s work with producer Chief Xcel under the name of Blackalicious. Still dedicated to a splice-and-riff jazz feel, Gift of Gab’s 2012 album is reminiscent of the good old days of sampling. Hailing from the generation that made sampling a fine art, Blackalicious was one of the most creative and prolific groups at the turntables. Check out these three tracks that made waves in sampling history.
Still one of my favorite sampled tracks, “Swan Lake” marks the hip-hop duo’s first single. Released on SoleSide Records (today Quannum Records) and published by the now legendary Mo’Wax Records in 1994, Xcel and Gift of Gab (Co-produced by fellow Solesides member DJ Shadow) wet the whistle with this smooth sailing number. The backdrop is a patchwork of clips from various covers of “People Make the World Go Round.” Dovetailing with Gift of Gab’s chill flow, the track rings out “true blue homie till the end.” It opens with a raw Cold Crush Brothers sample from ’81, and even interjects a Flava Flav quote into Gift of Gab’s lyrics at 1:19. Listen closely or you just might miss it.
A to G
Unless you have the gift of Gab, the lyrics on “A to G” are a mouthful. An Etude in alliteration, this song is quite possibly the world’s longest vocal exercise — second only to “Alphabet Aerobics,” their track from the same 1999 EP. Through the first part of the song, Gift of Gab spits his flow over a sampled loop of gospel piano/guitar and Jonny Jerkins on drums. But the end of the song is the true tour de force in production. Spliced together are snippets of songs by artists from the Fugees to J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E., each proclaiming the phrase “gift of gab.” Okay, Gabby T. We get it — you’ve got it.
Rock the Spot
The same cut-and-paste sampling rocks on “Rock the Spot,” the 1999 track and exposé on “classic” rap samples. Want to get up on your ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop? Just check out the samples on this track and you’ll be well on your way. Interspersing Gift of Gab’s lyrics with sampled clips, the end of the track reads like an auditory ransom note. Take a look at some of the lyrics:
“I say we drop it on a [One – (Boogie Down Productions)]
We drop it on a [Two – (Kurtis Blow)]
We comin’ out [Fresh – (Fab 5 Freddy)]
And we do it [For you – (Run-DMC)]
You know the deal with Blackalicious, we don’t play
[From New York, New York – (Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five)]
To [The streets of L.A – (2Pac)]”
From humble university radio beginnings to indie label super crew, Gift Of Gab and the whole Quannum Collective are unmatched over beats and rhymes. Why else would we be bating our breath for The Next Logical Progression?