Blackalicious’ new project, The Craft, has dropped.
I first heard the Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel on their 2002 outing, Blazing Arrow, and ultra-dense masterwork of collaboration technical layering of tracks, and mixing of soul sensibilities with J5/funk-driven non-syncopated hip-hop. My mind was blown. It was one of the best albums to come out of a summer that gave us Schneider TM’s “Zoomer” and Interpol’s “Turn On the Bright Lights.” The ensuing years haven’t, unfortunately, shown us such a glut of quality, powerfully new sounds (I maintain that The National’s Alligator remains one of the only albums of the past two years).
This is an album that two prolific and talented genii doted on. It’s obvious. Think Funk + Soul + Hip Hop meets 5th dimension and Star Trek. This is an album that will not turn you off, but it is an album that on this second listen, has to be committed to. Xcel’s production is tweaked, to say the least- each moment of music contains so much microinformation packed into a reassuring and familiar hip-hop beat that the ear is tempted to pass through the mass of it as the eye over atoms. The album does not appear to have another “First in Flight,” a song that immediately and uncompromisingly lifted my attention at a five finger discount on their last album. The Gift of Gab’s trademark rhythmic locquaciousness seems to fade into a drone- the spaces where the music’s hooks were allowed to take over on the last release don’t seem to be rearing their heads on this latest droplet of acrylic.
Keep in mind I am reviewing this record in comparison to my experience of my discovery of this duo- by no means is this album going to be a turn-off in the quality department. It simply doesn’t seem to surmount the challenge erected by their last, amazing record, moving musically in nanometers in comparison- lacking the amazing changes and hooks.
Of course, I say this now.
My time is up.
After another couple of listens, I do have to say that this album is definitely a disappointment in comparison to Blazing Arrow, this record just isn’t up to snuff. The trippy 5th Dimension meets Star Trek thing they have going on is cool, and it stands out particularly on the opener World of Vibrations and on The Fall and Rise of Elliot Brown, but most of the record gets lost in conventional beats and a morass of continuously invariably quickened vocals from the Gift of Gab.
[composed and posted with ecto]
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