When Blackalicious released Blazing Arrow
back in 2002 it was quickly hailed as one of the best hip-hop albums of the year by various critics. Some even claim that it is one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. About three years later Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab reported that they were going to release a new album in September 2005. Like many other hip-hop fans I was psyched and eagerly awaiting for the release of The Craft
. Itís always interesting to see how a band/duo will follow up such a critically acclaimed album and although I wasnít expecting another Blazing Aroow
I had very high expectations for The Craft
Chief Xcel ventures away from the jazzy, smooth, and relaxing beats found on Nia
and Blazing Arrow
. Instead Blackalicious almost completely recreate their sound and The Craft
is flooding with various electronics, pianos, and keyboards. The music is fairly funky, featuring many keyboard grooves and lush tones that will get your head nodding almost immediately. The problem with this is that Chief Xcel and Gift of Gabs rapping is overshadowed by glossy electronic effects and keyboard gunk. Most of these songs start off with a soothing beat but by the middle of the song several different electronic bleeps come in and crowd the music. The atmosphere of the album is remarkably upbeat and quirky creating a childish vibe. This can become strikingly tedious after multiple listens.
One thing that Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel donít experiment with is their rapping. Gift of Gab still has his smooth, chilled out voice as he spits out words at a fairly quick pace. His rapping gives the music a more mellow and lush feel but it is overshadowed by the heavy synth-beat production. Gabs rapping is still superb but it isnít that huge of a factor considering that The Craft
focuses on zany instruments rather then pure rapping skill.
The opening track, World of Vibrations
is a perfect example of how Blackalicious have completely altered their sound. The versus are sung by Gab over some eclectic electronics, and then the chorus hits you. The chorus is made up of ridiculously high pitched and jittery voices over peppy keyboard twinkles. While listening to the song it almost feels like Xcel is writing a song for a childrens program on Cartoon Network. The same thing goes for the first single released off of The Craft
. Almost sounding like a new-wave pop song Powers
is a catchy little tune with a soul-punched chorus. To be honest the song is hard to dislike, itís sugary keyboard lines and simple beat create a cheerful and upbeat vibe. I believe the only problem with it is that Blackalicious are a rap duo so what the hell are they doing writing slushy pop songs"
Almost every song off of The Craft
is experimental and when you experiment things donít always sound so good. Lotus Flower
kicks off the mid-section of the album and it is a slow, mellow, prince-esque funk song. The song is soaked with funky guitar licks and a chorus consisting of some female vocalists softly chanting ďna na na na oh yeahhaay.Ē I dig the overall sexiness of the song but the main problem is that the chorus shows up to often making it a very repetitive and somewhat tedious tune. Black Diamonds and Pearls
is another slimy funk song with another deep, rebellious sounding vocal delivery from Gab. This time Xcel decides the song would be better off without aimless keyboard twinkles and in result you have a nice, chilled out funk/R&B tune. After this comes an eerie and somewhat haunting rap song, Give it to You
. Gab almost sounds hypnotized as he raps over a simple beat. A mesmerizing droning effect plays in the background that generates the eerie effect, this is an interesting track that turns away from the glimmery pop that is found on The Craft
Iíve been quite harsh on The Craft
but it does have some excellent songs that cancel out some of the not so hot ones. Automatique
is a quick paced yet chilled out tune. Gabs vocal performance is ace as he quickly raps over a flashy beat giving the song a sleazy and bad-ass tone. Rhythm Sticks
features a warm, hushed chorus that quickly explodes into a boisterous verse where Gab spits out words over a throbbing beat. The verses smoothly transfer into the chorus creating a cool, trippy hip-hop gem. Finally the album closes with the title track and itís without a doubt a highlight. A smooth bassline is played over an intense beat and subtle keyboard dynamics. Gab fits in with the flow almost perfectly, his voice is smooth yet harsh fitting in with the mildly exhilarating closer.
With The Craft
Blackalicious put away the trumpets and brought out the keyboards and guitars. The most disappointing aspect of this album is that there are to many glossy synth sounds that float around throughout many songs that distract from the actual rapping. However I did give this album an average score so there are some positive aspects. Gabs rapping is right on, he fits in almost perfectly with the flow of the song creating a smooth and tight listening experience. All in all The Craft
is a bouncy, upbeat, and glossy hip-hop album with smooth rapping and a nice flow. Xcel and Gab mix in funk, jazz, and of course hip-hop together to make a fun and interesting listening experience, unfortunately the music can get to peppy and polished at points.