There was an industry buzz and curious layer that fell over the new Blackalicious album Blazing Arrow. Very few independent underground artists have garnered enough success or attention to be swooped up by a major label. When an independent hip-hop group does sign with a major label, they are usually forced to adhere to the label's philosophy of glam and gleam over substance. Thankfully, Blackalicious used their past independent music as a catalyst to deliver a polished, soulful and coherent album that should please all music heads.

Blackalicious, part of the hip-hop collective sole sides with such affiliates as Latyrix and D.J. Shadow, are known for their positive vibes and tight live shows. With Blazing Arrow, Blackalicious unleashes their passion on the listener with pure hip-hop that feels good to the soul. With this project Gift of Gab, a sick lyricist, delivers heat-seeking missiles targeted to hit your mind and take away all that bling-bling hype to get down to what truly matters: tight lyrics. His phrasing, rhyme patterns, and delivery shine throughout this album. (Gift of Gab delivered memorable songs on Blackalicious' first EP, such as the awe inspiring "A2G" which is also found on their full-length album NIA.) His cohort Chief Xcel creates head bobbing beats with interesting textures and clean sounds that take flight like arrows, which blaze through the listener's eardrums.

This album hosts some very renowned guest stars, including Gil-Scott Heron, Ben Harper, ?uestlove, Zach De La Rocha, Saul Williams, Miho Hatori (Cibbo Matto), Rakaa-Iriscience (Dialated Peoples) and Charlie 2na and Cut Chemist (Jurassic 5). The super out-there Cut Chemist brings it to the next level of hip-hop with the blazing, syncopated track "Chemical Calisthenics." Listen to this cut and get ready to feel Gift of Gab's rhyming prowess, connected with a beat to bring you to a new level of musical understanding, taking you where major label stagnate hip-hop is scared to go.

Happily, MCA understood who Blackalicious are and capitalized on what was already good. Blazing Arrow is more polished then the average underground hip-hop CD. However, it will still hit the underground backpackers, mainstream music listeners and jamband heads as well as those people who think all hip-hop is the same. Listen to Blazing Arrow with an open mind, heart and soul. In turn, Blackalicious will hit you with positive vibrations that delve into what pure music should sound like, and get your body moving and your head bobbing.

Dave Weinberger
Go see live music!

Read an interview with Blackalicious on JamBase!

[Published on: 5/9/02]

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