Lynne d Johnson

 

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05.12.02 07:55 PM

getting black to basics

blackalicious picIf you're feeling Blackalicious' Blazing Arrow, as I am, then you might also be interested in what other folks have to say about it. Wondering if being signed to a major may have changed their sound? What about the fact that they are like De La, grown up hip-hop? Can the underground stay true to its roots, even on a major label? Let's see what the critics have to say.

Keith Harris of the Minneapolis City Pages says:

"Here the duo gave off more than a whiff of Afrocentric incense, complete with a stately womanist poetry reading from Nikki Giovanni, and prissy flute loops. At times the packaging was so conscious you wanted to buy the guys a 40. But while this would seem to make Blackalicious a perfect fit for MCA, a label that has all but made the Roots its house band, Gab and Xcel are too restless to slip into a single style. In other words, their skill and dexterity made an argument for their culture that's louder than all the distracting accouterments."

Oliver Wang of the San Franciscon Bay Guardian says:

"Their new Blazing Arrow, released on MCA Records, is one of the most mature hip-hop albums to come from the Bay since the Hieros' heyday in the early '90s. Blackalicious fuse the creative spark the duo displayed in their years with Solesides/Quannum and the corporate music industry's many production resources, creating a sound that's more fully realized than their ambitious but uneven Nia (Quannum Projects, 2000)."

Nate Deyoung of The Daily Northwestern says:

"The sheer musical diversity, coupled with an amazing understanding of subtlety, makes Blazing Arrow an enjoyable listen throughout. From the introduction that boasts a gospel choir accompanied by a funk organ to the Frank Zappa-esque "Chemical Calisthenics," the group experiments with many different arrangements while retaining cohesion through the distinct style of Chief Xcel, the group's producer. The know twirler also uses touches of finesse, as heard on the semi-automated sung chorus of "The Sky is Falling," that give each track another layer of depth."

Bret McCabe of the Baltimore City Paper reviews Blackalicious' Blazing Arrow and Anti-Pop Consortium's Arrhythmia in one bite:

"Blackalicious' Blazing Arrow is the more accessible of the two thanks to Xcel's way with infectious beats. Xcel culls from the same '70s sex-you-up funk as Outkast, only Xcel is more fond of feeding the soul with a groove instead of tickling the booty bone. Cuts such as "4,000 Miles" and "Chemical Calisthenics" (on which Gab freestyles wild) do roll with a party vibe, but Blackalicious' bread and butter is deft displays of wisdom and skill. "Paragraph President" and the splashing beat of the title track take West Coast positivity and tack it onto memorably catchy songs."

David Wollock ofEast Bay Express says:

"But one of Blazing Arrow's strengths is that Gab actually writes cohesive raps that stick to a particular theme, in contrast to so many hip-hop tunes that change course whenever the MC runs out of thematic punch lines. More importantly, while many indie, underground, or conscious rappers devote a lot of time pontificating on the degenerate state of hip-hop, pointing out the foibles of their gangsta/playa peers, songs on Arrow focus less on diagnosing hip-hop's diseased colon and more on Zenlike notions of faith, peace of mind, and the simple pleasures along the road of life. Blackalicious, it seems, is leading by example."

And Tony Ware of Creative Loafing Atlanta says:

"Yet for all Blazing Arrow's guest threads and patches, Gift of Gab's intuitive splattered syllables ultimately provide the most intricately patterned material. "Gab is an MC in the tradition of the greats, in that he sees himself as a musician first and foremost, and sees his voice as his instrument," Xcel says."

Stay tuned, I might be reviewing this joint soon myself. That is if I can get my editors to believe in me again. As you know, a person with three jobs, full time grad school, and a breakup that took several months to finalize, may not have all that much time to write. So yeah, I've missed a few deadlines and have probably strained some relationships. But hopefully these editors will see that my energy and enthusiasm are solid and I'm back on top of my game. And hopefully you'll get to see some more of my writing again soon. Also have another interview coming up this week, other than that CTC in Queens. Really don't want to give out too much information on that one, I'd really be pissed if I jinxed myself on it. Only if I get it will you folks hear about it.

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