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 it's that funny many people I've talked to think otherwise. Secondly they ask me if I'm serious probably because I am white and don't look like someone that would be listening to music made by a duo called "Blackalicious." If you dislike hip-hop music please keep on reading because there isn't any easier way to get into rap music then listening to a Blackalicious album, yes even if you're 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 I'm sure that nearly everyone's 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 don't get your hopes up. Come to think of it, how many hip-hop albums are better then Blazing Arrow
? I think I've 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.
is Blackalicious' 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 that's 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 'rap' 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 isn't 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.
I've decided that I'm 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 you'll here by Blackalicious. It features a jumpy, quick paced beat along with some shouted "yeah" 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. It's 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. It's a very powerful song and it's 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 it's a little less mainstream . Cliff Hanger
is the longest track on the album, it's 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 it's 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 you're 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 that's 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 isn't 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 don't mix very well together. Sleep
is a piano driven ballad and Gabs vocals are extremely soft and gentle. It's an easy going rap tune, and the piano part sounds like something that my little brother could do. This isn't 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.