Fortune Sound – Vancouver, BC
MC Gift of Gab and Producer Chief Xcel better known as hip hop duo Blackalicious were in Vancouver on Friday night. After more than twenty years in the game they proved they can still throw down one hell of a show. Performing before a sold out Fortune Sound Club, the Sacramento natives delivered a barrage of the duo’s signature grooves along with offerings off their latest release; Imani Vol. 1. Blackalicious have always been masters at blending rapid fire poetic lyricism with west coast soulful production. They are pioneers in alternative rap and Gift Of Gab specifically is up there with the greatest emcees of al time.
The pair made waves in 2002 with their classic album Blazing Arrow on which they enlisted the help of a myriad of music makers including Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Questlove and Gill Scott Heron. This work cemented the duo’s legitimacy as more than west coast rappers but producers of sophisticated hip hop. Last September, after a ten year hiatus, Blackalicious released Imani Vol. 1 and reintroduced themselves to the public. The release is said to be part of a trilogy and fuelled by the support of a PledgeStarter campaign, the album is proof people want more from the two. Further evidence was the non stop screaming from hundreds of die-hard fans at Fortune. Imani (or ‘faith’ in Swahili) features smooth production and razor edged lyricism from Gift of Gab. The album, while alternative and expansive never rides off the rails as has been the criticism of past Blackalicious releases. Tracks like Ashes To Ashes and On Fire Tonight were well received by the electric crowd.
The duo have made several trips to Vancouver before and it was obvious they have a love-in with this city. There was lots of banter and lots of laughs. For sixty minutes the party atmosphere never wained. The loudest cheers came with the attack of Paragraph President and the silky smooth California classic Make You Feel That Way, both tracks off of Blazing Arrow. There have been stretches in which Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel have separated and worked on individual pursuits but Blackalicious proves to be an undeniable force in hip hop. Unique as ever and much loved in Vancouver. Imani Vol. 1 is out now and it feels like a new beginning.
+ Gavin Reid