Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Blackalicious to blaze through Whistler

West coast hip-hop sages find inspiration on the road Who : Blackalicious, with Jeff Spec & Ishkan, Mat the Alien, Rosco and R3 Where : Garfinkel’s When : Tuesday, Sept. 9, 9 p.m. Tickets: $27 in advance, $30 at the door.

West coast hip-hop sages find inspiration on the road

Who

: Blackalicious, with Jeff Spec & Ishkan, Mat the Alien, Rosco and R3

Where

: Garfinkel’s

When

: Tuesday, Sept. 9, 9 p.m.

Tickets:

$27 in advance, $30 at the door.

They met in high school, honed their skills in college, and more than a decade later, the basis of southern California hip-hop crew Blackalicious, Chief X-Cel and MC Gift of Gab are still at it.

The duo carved out a name for themselves in the ’90s as members of the Solesides (later to become the Quannum) hip-hop collective which included fellow groundbreaking west coast artists DJ Shadow and Latryx – artists Lateef and Lyrics Born. Their various efforts earned them industry respect and a reputation for insightful lyrics that go beyond booty-shaking and bling-bling woven into innovative, dance-worthy production.

The fourth Blackalicious album, 2002’s Blazing Arrow, their first major label debut, attracted a dream team of collaborators from the Roots’ ?uestlove, to ex-Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha. More than a year since its release, Arrow continues to make waves with its intelligent rhymes, lush grooves and intense verbal spars.

But Arrow’s success hasn’t sent Blackalicious into hiding in the studio. Rather, the crew has embarked on an ambitious touring schedule. We caught up with Gift of Gab as he chilled between the end of the crew’s European tour and the start of another trip up towards these parts. Jet lag wasn’t enough to keep a good MC down, especially one as insightful as Gift of Gab, who took the time to tell us about arrow symbolism, mainstream hip-hop, and meeting a childhood idol.

Pique:

Throughout your last album, Blazing Arrow, you continually reference the title. Can you explain the significance?

Gift of Gab:

The blazing arrow represents fate and conviction to be able to walk whatever path it is you walk in life, to fulfil whatever purpose it is you feel you are trying to fulfil in life. That’s all the blazing arrow represents to us – fate.

Pique:

On the album you have an amazing list of collaborators. From that group are there any particular standout collaboration experiences?

Gift of Gab:

A standout for me would be Gil Scott-Heron (vocals on the track First in Flight )…who is somebody my older relatives listened to, and I grew up on. To me that was surreal, to be in the same studio as Gil Scott-Heron. Everybody else, from ?uestlove, to Chali 2Na, to Ben Harper, everybody else was people we’d met through our travels, where we’d be like, ‘yo, we’ve gotta hook up and do something!’ Blazing Arrow gave us the opportunity to make that a reality.

Pique:

With all those collaborators when you go on the road does your sound change?

Gift of Gab:

When we go on the road it’s usually myself, Chief X-Cel, Lateef comes with us a lot of the time as a second MC, as well as two back up singers. With us, the live show is just as important as the record. We put a lot of thought into it, do a lot of different things with the singers harmony-wise. The whole thing with the live show, what we’re trying to do, is give the audience an experience instead of just getting up and doing songs.

Pique:

You’ve just gotten back from touring Europe. Are European hip-hop audiences different than audiences in the States and Canada?

Gift of Gab:

That’s the thing about music – I find it’s a universal thing. I think that if you put out a certain energy, you’re going to get a certain energy back. And whether we’re in New York, whether we’re in Whistler, whether we’re in L.A., whether we’re in London, or Scotland, or Ireland, when we put out the energy, we get energy back from the crowd. Music is one of those things that draws everybody together. It transcends people’s differences, whether it be racial, whether it be age, or whatever. Whether it be even geographic. It’s different people but it’s the same energy.

Pique:

Is it that energy that keeps you touring?

Gift of Gab:

Yeah, it’s a love and a passion. Definitely. We’re travellers. We like to create and do shows and see what we can invent and where we can take it. The passion to grow and do that is keeping us driven.

Pique:

Are you inspired by travelling? Are your lyrics inspired by travelling?

Gift of Gab:

Definitely. I think that travelling is some of the best growing you can do personally because you get out and you get exposed to other cultures and other ideas. Travelling is definitely inspirational.

Pique:

The artists from the Quannum group, people like yourselves and DJ Shadow, are considered very progressive. Where is the progression of hip-hop heading?

Gift of Gab:

Wow, that’s a good question. I think there’s always going to be a mainstream and there’s always going to be an underground. For me it’s about good music, whether you sell 10,000 copies or you sell a million copies. Some of my favourite artists right now are multi-platinum-selling mainstream artists. Eminem, Jay-Z and Nas are three of my favourite lyricists. Just because they sell millions of records doesn’t take away from their credibility as artists. I would like to see more of a balance. Right now, record companies are in control of the mainstream. The unfortunate thing is they don’t really live the culture. The art doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to the people who really live it. So who knows where it’s gonna go. I think there’s going to be a lot more progressive underground movements. It’s already happened where artists are taking their careers into their own hands, but you’re gonna see a lot more incredible music coming out of the independent circuit as well.

Pique:

So who’s in your CD player right now?

Gift of Gab:

Little Brother, they’re from North Carolina. The name of the album is called the Listening , it’s some of the best hip-hop out right now. Also, the Lifesavas, they’re down with our crew. I’ve got a little Bob Marley, I‘ve got the Brand Nubians, and that’s about it right now.

Catch Gift of Gab and the rest of the Blackalicious crew this Tuesday at Garfinkel’s with Jeff Spec & Ishkan of Vancouver hip-hop collective the City Planners. Also playing will be local DJs Rosco, R3 and Mat the Alien.




Comments