Week 16 Review

Blackalicious released A2G EP in 1999.  This Bay Area hip hop duo are part of the positive hip hop sub-genre which focuses on uplifting and spiritual messages rather than violence or materialism.     

Artist: Blackalicious {Timothy Parker aka Gift of Gab; Xavier Mosley aka Chief Xcel}
Album: A2G EP
Year: 1999
Genre: Hip hop
Rating: 4.75/5

Worth Your Time? Even if you’re not into hip hop, A2G is going to surprise and delight you.

Twitter Review: MC Gift of Gab and DJ Chief Xcel made an EP with A2G that is sonically, emotionally and intellectually stimulating at every turn.

 Top 3 Tracks:

  1. Clockwork
  2. Alphabet Aerobics (The Cut Chemist 2½ Minute Workout)
  3. Deception

Things to Look For:

  • Gift of Gab. On the song Clockwork Gift of Gab’s flow on the verses reminds me more of a saxaphone jazz soloist than I think any delivery by any MC I have ever heard.  The way he varies the rhythms, pitch accents and intonation of his words throughout the song feels like a saxophonist carefully selecting the next improvised note of the current chord as their fingers are flying along the instrument’s keys. For example, the lyrics “My house ain’t made of ginger, but it’s made of an array of pages that’ll slay ya like a ninja” is good in its own right. But to hear GoG actually deliver that line elevates it to a new level completely beyond anything you could ever get just by reading the lyrics.
  • Samples. It’s extremely clear that Chief Excel has paid his dues and has an extremely large knowledge of hip hop records, both past and present. Why? The wide variety of sampling happening on the EP is evidence enough.  Particularly in A to G where he samples various artists saying “gift of gab” to finish up the letter G and in Rock the Spot which is packed wall to wall with samples shows his commitment to the craft.
  • Dr. Suess. While it doesn’t have the playfulness and splendid imagination of Dr. Suess, Gift of Gab does an beyond impressive job in A to G and in Alphabet Aerobics as he does a verse featuring words starting with a particular letter for every letter of the alphabet. Have you ever heard anyone doing that before outside of some writing exercise? Probably not. But he not only attempted it but actually pulled it off brilliantly. In the hands of a lesser skilled artist, it could have easily turned into a disaster as the amount of multi-syllable words strung together on these tracks are jaw dropping. Also, the ending of Alphabet Aerobics is one of the best trolls ever on an album as the female narrator asks “Good. Can you say it faster?” as GoG finishes with the letter Z.
  • Think Positive. In the vein of Slick Rick, GoG delivers a parable in Deception to any future artists about the pitfalls of success in the world of hip hop.  In particular, I liked the processing of GoG’s voice as he becomes the narrator for this track. The other particularly positive track is Making Progress which is an inspiring track aimed at the black community to elevate themselves with the required effort despite the struggles they will have to face. Though the target of the song is narrow, I think it contains many universal truths of improving yourself that applies to any person thus valuable to everyone.

Low Points: The weakest track on the album is Back to the Essence which by no means a bad track.  It just doesn’t do much for me as the other tracks on the album. It also contains the only swear word is used on this album which is done by guest MC Lateef. Gift of Gab is known for not cussing on his albums. He’s even been referred to as the anti-Eminem in an article I ready some years ago. So to have Lateef break that up left me a little disappointed. It’s quite possible GoG swears on this album and I’m just missing it. I have two friends who can testify of my ability to miss swear words in a song. Luckily, the college radio didn’t get hit with a fine and nobody got in trouble.

Anything Else: So I think I proved the internet wrong while writing this review. And I would love to hear from you if you think I’m wrong after reading this.  On the song Clockwork there is a fantastic chorus. One part of the chorus contains what I believe to be the lyrics “Master of scratch, if the needle was to slip, then the needle he’ll catch” It is absolutely my favorite part of the chorus. I don’t know why but I loved hearing it every time it came up this week.  So I looked up the lyrics online to make sure I am hearing it correctly and all of the sites say a different set of lyrics “Master of scratching yes is he the one slippin or is he the real captain?” I listened to this part over and over again on my speakers and even my headphones trying to figure out how I could hear something so incredibly different than what’s on every single lyric site I visited.

Eventually, I noticed that another song was popping up when I searched the lyrics that I thought I heard. This song is Marley Marl feat. MC Shan – Marley Marl Scratch which is a classic hip hop song released in 1985. At 44 seconds Marley Marl begins to spell out his name in the song which is a common trope used by many MCs over the years. He raps “The M is for Master of Scratch And if the needle was to slip it’s the needle he’ll catch” which is incredibly close to the lyrics I think I hear. My version is obviously not a common phrase as I could find no other songs besides these two with those lines. And we already know that Chief Xcel has an incredibly wide breadth of music knowledge based on sampling on this album. Doesn’t it seem more likely that Xcel was paying tribute to Marley Marl by using that phrase in the chorus rather than using the phrase listed on the internet that sounds nothing like what I’m hearing? Feel free to listen to the song and give me your opinion. But I think somebody wrote the lyrics wrong in the beginning and that change has been propagated to all of the lyric sites without anybody ever verifying if they were correct. Therefore, the internet is wrong. And I am right. I rest my case.

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