Blackalicious
Blazing Arrow


5.0
classic

Review

by ZEROthirtythree USER (12 Reviews)
January 16th, 2005 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


History: Like a few other West Coast rap acts, including the Pharcyde, De La Soul, and Jurassic 5, Blackalicious has generally favored what hip-hoppers call the "positive tip"; in other words, its lyrics have often been spiritual and uplifting rather than violent or misogynous. Emerging from the creatively fertile soils of Northern California, The Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel fused together in around 1992 to make Blackalicious, a two-man combo whose relationship that of the MC and DJ/Producer reflects the core of the art form we have come to know as Hip Hop. In a cold and dark global market where music is thought of simply as a commodity to be mass produced, distributed, and sold, Blackalicious brings light through twelve years of fanatic b-boyism and soulful introspection.

Blazing Arrow is one of those classic summer albums that took much time to grow on me, and now I have no doubt that it's pretty much a solid CD. One of the few perfect hip-hop albums, free of filler, featuring brilliant production and lyrics, it's just a wonder to listen to. Blazing Arrow is their major-label debut. The layered production, the mess of styles, and the three-ring circus of guest stars turn this into a breakthrough record. But what makes it a masterpiece is that Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel can hold it together with the directness of their vision of strength and hope: this is unstoppably joyous, a complicated album that feels as natural as sunshine on your forehead. It’s a solid 74 minutes of originality and creativity and one of the best of 2002. This album is a massive advance on the last one, pushing the limber rhymes and tight beats with more musical innovation. Blazing Arrow has moments of slick R&B because of the MCA-roster female vocalists who help slow things down: Jaguar Wright's randy, sassy guest spot on "Aural Pleasure," Keke Wyatt on "It's Going Down," or Tracey Moore's smooth-as-silk chorus on "Nowhere Fast."

Lets start with the short funk intro "Bow and Fire:"

Introduction: Bow and Fire (1:06) - "Bow and Fire" is the perfect intro; it really sets the mood for the rest of the album. The introduction wont let you get away. Harkening back to the vintage funk and soul that label mate Shadow is so well known for, the keys supply the groove while the metaphor is introduced that drives the rest of the record: "I've got my arrow / I've got my bow I've got my fire / And I'm walking through the darkness slowly on a tightrope wire". The bass line literally pulls you into the rest of the album, and by the time the first thirty seconds are over, and the second track has begun, you realize you are in for the long haul. 5/5

Blazing Arrow (2:39) - 'Blazing Arrow’ features blazing rhymes, a bouncing bass line knocking into a horn section, and a hazy, dreamy Harry Nilsson sample on the chorus. The Gift of Gab doesn't disappoint: "I was on the old safe surface, figure out your purpose that's impossible / But logic will disturb the thought or focus what it's not is all about / The grow about the kind of onus only god can know". They put it all on the table with the simple hook to the song, sampled from Harry Nilsson's "Me and My Arrow": "Me and my arrow / Taking the high road". Without sacrificing the rest of the album to make the point I love the way Gab punches in that "Fade away!" on the track also. Blackalicious still lets the listener know where they are coming from, and more precisely, where it is that they are headed. 5/5

Sky Is Falling (2:26) - Sky is Falling has another brilliant verse and a killer chorus. Gift of Gab lays down some marvelous vocals on this track. The lyrics Gab creates are fresh and creative ‘ Rain and thunder and lightning/ Crumbling buildings/ Falling hurricanes/ Earth shattering mid-rains/ Scattering insane/ Happening/ Souls keeps burning/And the sky keeps plummeting/Now’ The keyboard on 'Sky is Falling' comes perilously close to being a Neptune’s imitation though. Not a highlight on the album at all, but don’t be quick to call it a filler! 4/5

First in Flight (4:32) - 'First in Flight' is the first highlight, and that's saying something. It just keeps getting better. The track flows very smoothly. It has Gift of Gab on vocals and it features Gil Scott-Heron also on vocals. The drumming or this song is so inspiring. ‘It's me/ Let your mind and your soul be free/ Work to shine meet your goal believe/ Spread that kind of L-O-V-E/ Take some time off the lonely" Scott-Heron sings wonderfully on the track, as he repeats ‘Cause all we got is rhythm and timing'/ We go beyond the edge of the sky" 5/5

Green Light: Now Begin (3:12) - The intro to the song is better than any other track IMO, it has a distorted guitar, which appears quietly on the rest on the track. 'Green Light...' is .not exactly groundbreaking and its chorus can annoy you at times. But ‘Green Light Now Begin" is laid-back and has smart lyrics. 4/5

4000 Miles (4:35) - ‘4000 Miles" is a "journey through music" as the chorus describes. It is a joyous song, easily another highlight. This song includes features Jurassic 5 and Latyrx. This is the first song to include explicit lyrics, thanks to Latyrx. 4000 is quite possibly my favorite hip-hop track ever. I dig the funky keyboards and cello low in the mix on "Nowhere Fast" as Gab runs through a list of what he'll accomplish "tomorrow," while the music sends him drifting away. Gab’s lyrics are strong once again: ‘Music, deliver from within and it covers up everything/ Music, when the melody and rhythm get the moving an unity/ Movin, one force one love one whole community/ Do it, keep traveling on keep traveling on".5/5.

Nowhere Fast (6:41) - Devastating lyrics once again. By this time, Gab has complete control of you. This track includes wonderful scratching by Chef X-Cel. The women (Tracey Moore) singing in this track has a relaxing voice. She repeats “tomorrow" numerous times, though it doesn’t get old. It is a long track for a hip-hop album, but you stay awake all the way through. It’s a head-nodder with a drum line supplied by ?uestlove, with Gift of Gab rapping to a former lover: "So treat to just a slice of heaven why you cheat me? / Deceive me and now I'm hell inside these thoughts that link me / To flesh the soul it's bound to I was truly made to be free". In lyrics like this, he manages to be grown-up without sacrificing his "flow". Brilliant track. 5/5

Paragraph President (5:09) - Paragraph President is an entire song crafted out of a single line from a De La Soul track. There is marvelous drumming in the second half of the song, and Xcel does some good work with the beats. Paragraph President is not my favorite, but creative. 4.5/5

It's Going Down (3:44) – “It's goin' down" is undeniably catchy. I mean VERY catchy. ‘Sit back, close your eyes/ Peep back, got you open wide/I'll let you get a taste of me/It's going down in mystery" is a very sexy chorus, again sung by women, one is and Keke Wyatt. This song also features Lateef the Truthspeaker. I love the song. 5/5

Make You Feel That Way (3:26) - ‘Make you feel" is a 'feel-good' song, no doubt. There are the nostalgic lyrics and smooth sound on "Make You Feel That Way," with its haunting trumpet line. It is a very calm track. You keep hearing the simple yet powerful line ‘Make you feel that way" for the chorus. The lyrics are simply at another level, and they perfectly fit the soothing music. Good all around song. 5/5

Brain Washers (6:22) - A song that songs somewhat like ‘Make you feel". 'Brain washers' surprisingly has that high pitched "where do I go?" voice that adds to the song. The middle of the song has some neat drumming, which leads to the second part of the song. It’s a weird breakdown, with crazy drumming and scratching. It end’s with “ARROW". Good solid track. 4/5

Chemical Calisthenics (3:21) – “Chemical calisthenics" proves that it's true; Gift of Gab really CAN do anything. Amazing... Chemical Calisthenics has break-neck tongue twisters. It’s a chemistry lesson within three minutes. Even if you hate chemistry, you will like this song. "Chemical Calisthenics" is a breakneck lyrical workout for Gab backed by scattershot beats from Cut Chemist. By this time you know creativity is possible in hip-hop. 'Chemical calisthenics' is a VERY creative song. Again, some neat drumming that is very fast at the end. 5/5

Aural Pleasure (4:47) – “Aural Pleasure" has Gab’s best lyrics. Unfortunately, the beat suffers a little and I am not too fond of the hook, I'm afraid. But I like the way it switches half way through. The song is weird, but in a good way. I prefer the second half of the song. Again, it ends with “ARROW". 4/5

Passion (3:54) - 'Passion' is a fiery song, with awesome lyrics. Though the concept, creativity and delivery is weak. You see, it's called 'Passion', and in the chorus they describe what passion is, but they try to keep it a bit too real - they don't need to tell us how good & authentic they are compared to other artists, it sounds too much like an average Dilated Peoples song. But it is somewhat enjoyable. 4/5

Purest Love (4:03) - I really like this song, it is somewhat another highlight. It’s a soulful shout out from Gab to the people who inspired him - his family. ‘Purest Love" has a killer chorus, with some beautiful horns. There is really no other song on this album like it. 5/5

Release Pt. 1, 2 and 3 (9:26) - Start’s off with the yelling of “Release!" Which is shouted out by the infamous Zach De La Rocha. ‘Release" is a three-parter that also features (other than the impassioned screaming of Zack de la Rocha), the brilliant verses of Saul Williams and a great musical outro. A standout track definitely. All the instruments on this track flow exceptionally well. The instruments include a cello, organ, piano, bass etc. I will say it again, Saul Williams wrote very interesting and intriguing lyrics for this song. Lyrics Born doesn’t rap too bad either. “Motivate, accelerate, never wait, know your weight, throw away hate" Lovely Song. 5/5

Day One (4:52) - Gift of Gab takes the Mos Def route on this track, and sings a duet. ‘Day One" isn’t bad. I enjoy the singing between Gab, Erinn Anova, Vursatyl, and Joyo Velarde. The strings are nice and the song flows well. But more importantly is the brilliant outro, featuring a final nod to the intro, tying the album into a colorful package. 5/5

In my honest opinion, I think everyone should own this album. And as for the guest list on the album: it's impressive, not just because of the big names that lent a hand, and not just because they sound good, but because some of them have never sounded better. There are plenty of guest rappers-- Lateef the Truth Speaker, Chali 2NA, and Lyrics Born, to name a few-- but the other vocalists are surprising. Will Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha ever have another chance to shout on a record this mature? And Gil Scott-Heron's basso profundo firms up "First in Flight"-- he didn't even sound that good back when he sounded that good. Fellow SoleSides alumnus DJ Shadow slips in a between-tracks interlude, and Saul Williams gets a showcase for his gnarled, elaborate verses in "Release". And ?uestlove of the Roots co-wrote and plays drums on one of the album's standouts, the missed-opportunities rumination of "Nowhere Fast".



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Comments:Add a Comment 
manuscriptreplica
May 9th 2004


431 Comments


Best. Hip. Hop. Album. EVER. Chemical Calisthenics is freakishly fast.

Awesome review.

Zappa
May 9th 2004


355 Comments


I love this album, it's not just my favorite rap album, but one of my top favorite albums period. I agree that most should own it, 5/5.

Scott Herren
May 9th 2004


192 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is the shit. I bought it for the songs "Blazing Arrow" and "Make You Feel That Way", and then put off listening to the rest of it for a while, and then when I did I was blown away. There isn't a weak track. My favorite is his song with Ben Harper, or maybe "First In Flight". You can't not like this album.

Theleftside2
May 11th 2004


36 Comments


Interesting stuff. And excellent review too. :thumb:

I'm going to have to look for this album. :cool:

^frommars^
May 30th 2004


1 Comments


crap, U ppl write alot, nice review i didnt read it

manuscriptreplica
May 30th 2004


431 Comments


How do you know it's a nice review then? Why even bother posting?

bruise_pristine
May 31st 2004


66 Comments


^
Because he is an idiot.

Anyways, nice review Zero you really went into depth. I wouldn't say this is the best rap album IMO, but it is up there. The tracks "Blazing Arrow" and "Sky Is Falling are great tracks. If anyone is looking to get into rap this would be a great album to get, among a few others.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 27th 2004


2125 Comments


This is on sale, I'm getting it next week.

Tangy zizzle
September 27th 2004


253 Comments


I'm gonna buy this soon.

Zesty Mordant
September 27th 2004


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

awesome album, and probably the best hip hop album to come out in the last couple of years.............which means a lot when you consider other groundbreaking artists like madvillain, el-p, sage francis, and aesop rock. they achieve the perfect combination of originality and catchy melodies and there's nary a wasted track.

and an excellent review too, much better than when rolling stone reviewed with a single half-assed paragraph and gave it 2 FREAKIN' STARS!!

manuscriptreplica
September 27th 2004


431 Comments


Of course RS only gave it two stars, it's not on the radio, so it can't be good.

BillCosby
September 28th 2004


21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[QUOTE=ZEROthirtythree]
DJ Shadow - Producer, Mixing
Cut Chemist - Producer, Cut, Scratching
Innocent Criminals - Producer
Ben Kenney - Bass
Zack de la Rocha - Vocals
De La Soul - Performer
Ben Harper - Vocals, Producer, Guitar
[/QUOTE]


Cool.


I've been wanting this album, I just don't have the money.

Tangy zizzle
September 28th 2004


253 Comments


I love the cover art.

Tapeworm
September 28th 2004


118 Comments


I'm definately buying this. I have been meaning to listen to Blackalicious for ages. Thank you, brilliant review.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 28th 2004


2125 Comments


Go to David Jones man, it's 15 bucks there.

Zappa
September 28th 2004


355 Comments


This is another one that can be had for $10 at Target.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 28th 2004


2125 Comments


I'll have to check other department stores. In all the music shops it was like 30 bucks.

BillCosby
October 9th 2004


21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I got this yesterday, I looooove this album.

(yes, I bumped just to say this)

Kaden
October 9th 2004


222 Comments


[QUOTE=ZEROthirtythree]3 Sky Is Falling (2:26) - Not a highlight on the album at all, but don??t be quick to call it a filler! 4/5[/quote]
Not a highlight!? This is one of my favorite songs on the album.

14 Passion (3:54) - 'Passion' is a fiery song, with awesome lyrics. Though the concept, creativity and delivery is weak. You see, it's called 'Passion', and in the chorus they describe what passion is, but they try to keep it a bit too real - they don't need to tell us how good & authentic they are compared to other artists ?sounds too much like an average Dilated Peoples song. But it is somewhat enjoyable. 4/5

I think Passion is the only weak song on the album. I always skip it.

I only own 2 rap albums (this and Things Fall Apart by the Roots), but this has to be one of my favorite albums. I love his style, it's so fluid and natural, whereas the Roots are so much more forceful.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
October 10th 2004


2125 Comments


I bought this last Thursday night, I love it.



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