I may have put myself in a quagmire of sorts. I’m white, I’m from the suburbs and I’m going to try and talk about hip-hop and rap. Better than that, the group itself is called Blackalicious. Yeah…not sure if this is going to work out. So be it, though.
I really like Blackalicious. I can’t help it. It’s good stuff. Let’s get the standard business stuff out of the way. Blackalicious is yet another Josh recommendation. For the record, he’s also a white guy from a middle class family. He at least has the “army brat” cred, I’m just from the burbs. Once again, Josh was right and I really got into Blackalicious.
Yesterday I listened to three albums from Blackalicious: Nia (2000), Blazing Arrow (2002) and The Craft (2005). I did not listen to Imani Vol. 1 (2015) since I didn’t have it before now. In the interest of being thorough, I also listened to the side project by Lateef the Truthspeaker and Chief Xcel called Maroons. They have one album I know of called Ambush (2004). To finish out my mix, I also listened to Droppin’ Science Fiction (2008) by The Mighty Underdogs, a side project of Gift of Gab and Lateef.
One thing I noticed was that I immediately understood what I liked most about Blackalicious. When contrasting the three groups, I like Blackalicious and Maroons more than I like The Mighty Underdogs. Don’t get me wrong, Gift of Gab is a lyrical wizard and his rhyme game is extremely strong. But it’s the “classic” beats from Chief Xcel that draw me in. I’m a sucker for the old-school feel of his beats. I just think they do better at getting a good head bob or a full desire to dance than a lot of the beats being dropped today. I still think one of music’s primary purposes is to make you dance, and the beats from Chief Xcel are better at that than most.
My favorite album of theirs is still Blazing Arrow. My reasoning for this is…a little sentimental. I mean, I love the tracks on that album just a little bit more than the other two. You can’t get much better than songs like Sky is Falling, 4000 Miles and Release (especially the long poetry interlude in the middle of Release, it’s quite epic). And I know that Blackalicious got a little internet famous from Daniel Radcliffe’s performance of Alphabet Aerobics, but I think Chemical Calisthenics is even better. But it’s the title track that makes me love this album. It’s what made me start listening to the in the first place. The song is good on its own, but the fact that they sampled Me and My Arrow is what gets me every time. The nostalgia hits hard. When I was a kid, I listened to the record that was from, a story album called The Point. Now, as an adult, I look at the The Point and realize that the people who created it were…really high on drugs. It’s a psychedelic trip. But I liked it a lot as a kid. My parents had it on vinyl, and I spent many a Saturday afternoon laying on the floor listening to The Point and following along in the storybook that came with it. Me and My Arrow was one of my favorite songs to sing along to, and hearing it again, sampled, all these years later still brings a smile to my face. It’s kind of a silly reason to love the record, but it’s my reason.
Bring this back around to the thoughts I had when I started this post. I don’t think there’s any such thing as music for only one race or group. Everyone can like punk, everyone can like rap, everyone can like country. It all depends on what you’re looking for in your music. I’m hear for the whole package. I can’t always identify with the lyrics, but I’m a sucker for beats and any form of percussion. Thus, I actually like a lot of hip-hop and rap, though I do gravitate towards the “old school” like Public Enemy, Run DMC and, of course, Blackalicious.