Blackalicious
Nia


4.0
excellent

Review

by Chris Jackson USER (177 Reviews)
March 29th, 2006 | 30 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist


When I tell people that I listen to Blackalicious they do a number of things. First they start to laugh because the name is actually quite humorous. While you may not think itís that funny many people Iíve talked to think otherwise. Secondly they ask me if Iím serious probably because I am white and donít look like someone that would be listening to music made by a duo called ďBlackalicious." If you dislike hip-hop music please keep on reading because there isnít any easier way to get into rap music then listening to a Blackalicious album, yes even if youíre a scrawny little white boy.

In 2002, the duo released the album Blazing Arrow and now it is one of the most famous and best rap albums released over the past fifteen years. While this is all based on opinions Iím sure that nearly everyoneís favorite Blackalicious album is Blazing Arrow. So what else has Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab been up to? Has there been any other Blackalicious albums that I can check out or have they just sort of disappeared? If so are they any good and are they as good as the classic Blazing Arrow?

First things first no other Blackalicious albums come close to being as good as Blazing Arrow so donít get your hopes up. Come to think of it, how many hip-hop albums are better then Blazing Arrow? I think Iíve made enough comparisons for the rest of the review so let me get down to reviewing Nia instead of whoring over that other godly masterpiece.

Nia is Blackaliciousís debut album and it is a hell of a good one. Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab blend together rap, funk, jazz, soul, and pop all together to create some tight beats and some phat rhythms. Out of all the hip-hop duos out there these cats truly represent. The tracks range from mellow, soothing ballads to quick paced rap freestyles. For the most part everything is upbeat, fun and easy going but sometimes Blackalicious gets tricky and throws in a soft and calm soul influenced track, ya know just to mix things up. The thing that makes Nia so great is how much range it shows. One track can be a humorous freestyle and the next could be a deep, jazzy influenced R&B tune.

A lot of instruments are used throughout the course of the album and thatís what makes it so great. Many guitar riffs, heavy beats, jazzy trumpets, and soulful backing vocals are often used. Sometimes Gab adds in some twinkly effects to give some of these songs a more mainstream feel, but for the most part things stay pretty basic. Soothing basslines also make their way in and out of the music, the bass work is actually quite mellow and smooth. Since the music is ďrap" most of the music consists of a simple beat and a rapper spitting out words, right? With Nia this is not exactly the case. While the music isnít extremely creative a lot of instruments to make their way in and out of the album over the course of nineteen tracks giving Nia a little bit of a soul and old school feel.

Iíve decided that Iím going to go through a good chunk of these tracks, just because this album has a good amount of range musically and vocally. Fabulous Ones is one of the catchiest and most basic rap tracks youíll here by Blackalicious. It features a jumpy, quick paced beat along with some shouted ďyeah" backing vocals in between the beats. Gab sounds very relaxed yet his voice is intense and quick keeping the song mellow yet compelling, something very few hip-hop artists can do. The next track Do This My Way is a completely different song. Itís laid-back, and mellow. A slippery funk guitar riff is repeated over another simple beat and Gabs smooth vocals. This is obviously a standout song just because it is so funky and upbeat it puts a smile on your face and will get you swaying. A 2 G is the albums big single and it is the most inventive song off of Nia. It borrows influences from soul and pop. Some piano chords are repeated along with a beat and a scratchy guitar riff weaves in and out of the song. Itís a very powerful song and itís heavy beat along with piano chords give it a very mainstream, 50 Cent like feel.

The middle of the album is just a bit more creative then the first part, but itís a little less mainstream . Cliff Hanger is the longest track on the album, itís just about six and a half minutes long. It has sort of a dark and sleazy feel, two soothing beats play over each other while Gab raps in a deep and quick paced voice. It is very intense yet simple, making the listener sort of stop and think. Shallow Days continues the sort of retro feel and is another simple yet effective track. It has a simple hip-hop beat and Gab raps over it, nothing amazing but itís still a catchy tune. The oddest and most interesting track off the album has to be Ego Trip by Nikki Giovani which is just a simple bassline and a women talking over it. The track is sort of eerie and the lyrics make no sense while they mention things like the Sahara desert and goats meat. Some may refer to this as filler but the bass playing is very addicting and the lyrics are quite humorous. Dream Seasons is the most old school and emotional track featured on Nia. It has a simple beat, some special effects and the production makes you feel like youíre on the street standing right next to Gab. The chunky guitar riffs help out the song giving it a gangsta rap feel. The second part of the album ends on a rough edged note with Trouble. Gab sounds really pissed off on this one and is ready to bust any fool thatís about to front. The beat is heavy, the vocals are aggressive and pissed and the only instruments used are some turntables and some drums. True old school hip-hop at its finest.

The last part of the album is the weakest section of Nia and some of these songs could have easily of been left out making this a fifteen or even a fourteen song effort. That being said Smithsonian Institute of Rhyme is my favorite track off the album. It combines both soul and funk which is a huge plus. A smooth bassline plays over a guest rapper with an extremely low and chilled out voice. Jazzy saxophone lines quietly play throughout the track giving it a jazzy and an overall sleazy sound. I love the vocals just because the low sound adds to the whole jazziness of the track. After this the album just goes downhill, which is a shame because Blackalicious was on such a great role. As the World Turns is another simple track, which is fine but it exceeds five minutes making it boring and tiring. The song is just a regular beat over multiple vocalists spitting out words over one another. It sounds really crammed and although it isnít a filler track it is long and tedious. Beyonder is a sort of low key groovy track with a soothing and late night bar kind of feel. It has some heavier rap influenced parts, and in result the song has some catchy separate parts but the upbeat chorus and jazz-esque verses donít mix very well together. Sleep is a piano driven ballad and Gabs vocals are extremely soft and gentle. Itís an easy going rap tune, and the piano part sounds like something that my little brother could do. This isnít very impressive and is oddly lumped in towards the end of the album. The album closes on a high note. Finding is a glistening track with a smooth acoustic guitar line played over some smooth electronic effects. Gab and a women vocalist sing and the song is ever so soothing and upbeat.

All in all Nia is an excellent hip-hop album. It has some powerful, intense hip-hop based songs along with some experimental jazz and soul influenced tracks. Unfortunately the album goes on a little bit to long and it also has its fair share of snoozers. Gabs rapping skills are superb, he is able to spit out a ton of words at the right time while still be able to sound smooth and composed. He also does a great job at slowing things down and sounding like an old soul singer. In short if you want a unique rap album then Nia will do the trick, Blackalicious represents.



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user ratings (87)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Thor
March 29th 2006


10195 Comments


Excellent. I have Blazing Arrow and LOVE it, so I'll probably check this out sooner or later.

pulseczar
March 29th 2006


2385 Comments


Great work. I'll check this out sometime, I remember them getting a fair bit of airplay on the music channel a while ago.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
March 29th 2006


16089 Comments


Two thumbs up. I remember hearing this album ages ago before I got into hip hop, and still thinking it was nifty. I'll have to check it out sometime.

Zesty Mordant
March 29th 2006


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, this album always gets overshadowed by Blazing Arrow. In fact, I first got into these guys when I saw the video for "Deception".
For me, the best tracks on here are "Shallow Days", "Trouble", "As the World Turns, and "Sleep"

LF96
March 30th 2006


97 Comments


Nice review, I'll try to review The Craft if noone beats me to it.

As for this album, I've yet to hear it in it's full form. I've heard most of it tho, and judging on that it's very nice, but I won't give a rating just yet.

Zebra
Moderator
March 30th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[quote=Zesty]"As the World Turns, and "Sleep" [/quote]
Those are some of my least favorite tracks off the album. I can see how you enjoy them, because this album has so much range.

Zesty Mordant
March 30th 2006


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They both have a very mellow and sublime kind of feel to them. For "As the World Turns", I really dig the organ sample that propels the song. The flows on that track are pretty creative as well and suit the mood of the song.
"Sleep" to me is just a really beautiful track. I can't really explain why. The soft beat, piano melody, calm vocals, I think they all fit perfectly together.

But hey, to each his own.This Message Edited On 03.30.06

kno_kontrol
May 1st 2006


448 Comments


I like lots of underground hip-hop (Deltron 3030, atmosphere, handsome boy modeling school, kool keith, etc) and Ive been meaning to check this one out.

excellent in depth review

Sepstrup
May 29th 2006


1563 Comments


How does this compare to The Craft?

Zesty Mordant
May 29th 2006


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

way different than The Craft which has a much more "eclectic" sound and incoporates more live instruments.
This album is more DJ/beat oriented and has a very humble/sublime feel to it.

Sepstrup
May 31st 2006


1563 Comments


I heard the Craft yesterday. I wasn't that impressed. Rhythm Sticks is a cool song though. I haven't heard this yet, but I undoubtedly will. I'm one of those scrawny white boys who like Blackalicious

Zebra
Moderator
May 31st 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm actually reviewing The Craft right now and lets just say it's not going to get a very high rating. Even if I don't compare it to other Blackalicious albums it still isn't very good.

Zesty Mordant
May 31st 2006


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

pfft, its a pretty good album; not great but better than the majority of non-commercial rap I've heard lately..
Everybody keeps comparing it to goddam Blazing Arrow

spoonfedcrayons
June 19th 2006


35 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You didn't mention If I May, which is one of my fav tracks. Love Blackalicious good review though

Rams
June 19th 2006


31 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think this was a good sign of things to come but not particularly a strong album. "Deception" is a cool track, but I haven't found any other really memorable tunes like on The Craft or Blazing Arrow

Two-Headed Boy
March 4th 2007


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is quite excellent. Good work, I might add.

Doonothing
March 14th 2007


121 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Deception is a pretty bomb track. One of the songs that got me into underground hip-hop.

jrowa001
July 2nd 2007


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i need this album

jrowa001
June 19th 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

got it! this is another excellent album from my favorite rap group. Blazing Arrow>Nia>The Craft

scyther
August 2nd 2009


1606 Comments


Such a fantastic record.



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