A&E » Arts

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.

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.