Blackalicious
The Craft


2.5
average

Review

by Zebra USER (177 Reviews)
June 1st, 2006 | 21 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


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, Powers. 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.



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user ratings (91)
Chart.
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
LF96
June 1st 2006


97 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like the experimentation on this. While the album's definitely not as good as Blazing Arrow (hardly possible) and it doesn't even top NIA, I still think it's a very good album in it's own right. Chief Xcel does a great job, I think, delivering some of the most complex beats he has ever made.

Automatique is indeed a great song, but the craziest song on this album is definitely Egosonic War Drums. I hated it the first time I heard it, but it has now become my favourite song on the album. Yay for tribal Indian drumming mixed with electronica!

Oh yeah, if you don't like this, I wouldn't suggest checking out other recent releases from Quannum. This album seems perfectly normal compared with some of the experimentation going on on other Quannum-albums. This Message Edited On 06.01.06

DanD
June 1st 2006


86 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, but it seems like you've gotten a little caught up on the fact that this isn't a 100% rap album. Personally I love the mix of styles and instrumentation, but thats just me.



And "Powers" is one of the best singles I've heard in a while.

Med57
Moderator
June 1st 2006


1002 Comments


I rather enjoyed this album too. Not in the same league as Blazing Arrow, although I'd put that up there with the best albums of the decade so far. I still liked how they'd moved on though, and I'd definitely recommend it. And Powers is indeed fantastic. This Message Edited On 06.01.06

Zebra
Moderator
June 1st 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

[quote=LF96]I like the experimentation on this. While the album's definitely not as good as Blazing Arrow (hardly possible) and it doesn't even top NIA, I still think it's a very good album in it's own right. Chief Xcel does a great job, I think, delivering some of the most complex beats he has ever made.[/quote]He delivers some nice beats throughout the album, and occasionaly I enjoy the experimentation but I think that there are just to many songs that contain to many keyboard synths

[quote=Dand]it seems like you've gotten a little caught up on the fact that this isn't a 100% rap album.[/quote] That's definitely true. I just couldn't really get into the soul/funky stuff but I still stand by my rating.





masada
June 1st 2006


2733 Comments


I don't like the songs I've heard from this.

Sepstrup
June 1st 2006


1567 Comments


I heard it once, and my impression was basically what you said in this review. Very good job. When I saw that the album was reviewed, I was hoping you were the reviewer.

I'll give this some listens and see if it grows on me.This Message Edited On 06.01.06

Hatshepsut
June 1st 2006


1997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yay someone reviewed this I was thinking about doing it, but never got around to listen to it.

And it's a Zebra review too! As usual, great work.

Zesty Mordant
June 1st 2006


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review, though I don't agree with the rating.

I thought this was a natural progression for the group and doesn't sound that far off from where Blazing Arrow left off.

Interestingly enough, this is one of those albums where it feels like it gets wayy better in the second half ( from "Automatique" and on)

Rams
June 1st 2006


31 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is my favorite Blackalicious album.

Sepstrup
June 10th 2006


1567 Comments


Powers is fabulous.

DanD
June 16th 2006


86 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I had to change my rating for this album. It has really grown on me in the past few weeks, and is currently my favorite album at the moment, I just can't get enough of it.

metallicaman8
June 16th 2006


4677 Comments


Putting out your landmark 100th review anytime soon?

masada
June 16th 2006


2733 Comments


I haev 100 reviews.

spoonfedcrayons
June 19th 2006


35 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The Craft is Blackalicious on a bad day, its alright, i like world of vibrations and powers and rythem sticks. still better than most of the cRap on the market. Dont get me wrong i love hip-hop, cRap is what u see on MTV

jrowa001
July 2nd 2007


8752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i need this album too

Fort23
July 2nd 2007


3017 Comments


Wouldn't be a bad idea Ill tell you that. Listening to Blackalicious is like like listening to chocalte. And you can nominate this as the nOOB comment of the year.

jrowa001
July 2nd 2007


8752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haha maybe, you spelled chocolate wrong. i love blazing arrow so im sure im going to get this and Nia soon

Gyromania
September 25th 2011


25916 Comments


Review rating: 2.5
Reviewer: Chris Jackson


I'm going to love this, aren't I?

Activista anti-MTV
March 23rd 2012


3152 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

solid album

random
June 22nd 2012


2689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gift of Gab's verse on "Rhythm Sticks" is amazing.

Digging: Say Anything - ...Is a Real Boy



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