sits down with one of the most cutting-edge lyricists in the game today.
Check out what Gift of Gab has to say about the new Blackalicious album
"The Craft," as well as what "The Craft" means and
where he sees Blackalicious heading next.
man. We just started the tour, right now we're out in Texas.
Craft" is about to drop, what can you tell us about that?
I would definitely
say it's an evolution for Blackalicious, with myself as a lyricist and
Excel as a producer. I think this is just one more step forward for us.
This is a very full album, depth-wise. There's a lot to it.
you want everyone to get from "The Craft?"
we just want to give people something refreshing, something that they
can relate to as well as something that can take them somewhere. When
I grew up and listened to Hip Hop, I listened to KRS, Chuck D, Run-D.M.C.,
and I always liked the stuff that made me say "wow, Hip Hop can be
this too." Hopefully that's what Blackalicious can do, that we're
adding on. Hopefully we're adding on to the continuum of rap music.
do you have on this album?
We have a
lot of good guest appearances. We have a song with George Clinton called
"Lotus Flower." He came through our studio in Oakland and laid
it down. I wouldn't really call this a record where I do a lot of busting
on. I do it, but that's not really the focus of this record. There's a
lot of conceptual songs and story-telling on this.
was it like recording with George Clinton?
It was amazing.
It was a great experience being in the studio with a true master. He knew
what he was doing and where he wanted to go, effortlessly. It was a trip.
It was an honor to do this.
already did concept songs with the alphabet and the periodic table, any
new ones coming up?
we'll have one in the future. There's nothing of that nature in "The
Craft." I think the most out there song we have on the album is a
song we did with P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship called "Egosonic
the title "The Craft" mean to you?
Craft" is about honoring the craft. It's about honoring whatever
your calling is, whether you're an artist, a journalist, a chef
about honoring the craft and being a vessel to a certain extent for something
greater than ourselves. The thing about art is that it comes from somewhere
else and human beings are blessed to be able to be vessels for it.
feel as though a lot of artists have forgotten about honoring "the
I'm not going
to say the artists have forgotten about it. I think that when you get
a lot of labels and executives and A&R people that get to control
the music and people's perception of the music, you get people that control
how music is presented, and they may not have an understanding of the
music. They may think that something hot sounds like this and everything
has to sound like this, so then you don't get the full spectrum of what's
going on. When I say that A&R's don't understand the culture, I think
that the money makes the art get exploited. You still have artists to
where the art is sacred. Don't get me wrong, because we live in a society
where we're in a sort of matrix where you need money and if you don't
have money you won't survive. But I think that the focus gets taken away
from the craft itself and the interest and focus becomes money, and in
that case, it kind of dilutes the overall art.
a solo album last year. How does Gift of Gab change as a solo MC and one-half
Gift of Gab
is a lyricist. Blackalicious is a chemistry between Gift of Gab's lyricism
and Chief Xcel's production.
a Blackalicious song born?
Most of the
time, X will give me a beat. He'll give me like a skeleton track, and
I'll write to that. Once I write to that, I'll put the vocals down, and
then we'll write the hooks. If we need singers, we'll get the singers
to come in and do their part. And then he'll add more music to the track
and finish it like that.
two years since the last Blackalicious record, what have you both been
doing the past two years?
man. We've been working on this record. X did the record with Lateef as
The Maroons. X also did a remix record of Fela Kuti. We're always working
on stuff and thinking about the next project.
your next project going to be?
on another solo record and X is working on another record with Lateef
and working on a record with a singer named Legacy. We're also formulating
ideas for the next Blackalicious record as well.
a lot of dope ideas in your lyrics, what's your inspiration?
day man. Everyday life. I would say all of my interactions with people.
There's other artists that inspire me. There's a lot of different things.
is positivity in Blackalicious' music?
To me, it's
important that it's honest. My whole thing is honesty. I think that everyone
should be who they are. If you're a conscious person, I think that should
come out in your lyrics, whatever it means to be conscious, it's just
a label. If you're a gangster person, I think that should come out in
your lyrics. I think it's important to be the person that you are.
it working with Gil Scott-Heron on "First in Flight?"
another just amazing experience. He's a very cool, down-to-earth person.
It's cool when you meet somebody of that status and he's down-to-earth
and Chali 2na have a dope chemistry when you've worked together, how is
it working with him?
one of the most creative cats, most creative lyricists in the game, bar
none. That's my dog. It's an honor to work with Chali 2na.
is considered an underground classic by a lot of people, how do you feel
looking back on that?
It was definitely
the album it was supposed to be. I'm definitely proud of that record,
like all of the records we put out.
is a collector's item now. How do you feel about the way that EP is looked
man. It's amazing. Wow. Just to hear you say that statement, it's like,
wow, there's still a demand for that. That's really cool man.
you say that your style has evolved from "Melodica" to "The
I have grown
more as a songwriter. I have gone from just being a battle lyricist to
being able to write songs and just being interested in writing hooks and
songs. I think I'm a full songwriter now. I'm always going to be a lyricist,
don't get me wrong, but I don't feel that I have to write raps anymore.
At this point, I could write a soul song, I could write a rock song, and
I could write a country song if I wanted to. You always have to be able
to grow. I'm growing to where I can be a full songwriter.
has so many different sounds, do you see you guys outside the Hip Hop
I think we
already have. I think when you listen to songs like "Day One,"
"As the World Turns," and "Attica Black," show songwriting
capacity that's not just rapping. I think it's limitless. I'm in a place
where I want to understand all forms of music, even cultural music, music
that I may not have identified with as a younger person. I really want
to understand the full spectrum of songwriting.
is the live show to Blackalicious?
of the package. The album is the other half. The audience, the viewer,
has to be able to have an experience when they listen to our music.
have a hype man, especially in today's day when one MC needs 30 hype-men
I think it's
whatever works for the group. With us, it may not be necessary. It all
depends on the vibe.
been your favorite place to rock so far?
lot of places man. The one thing that I realized is music is universal,
and when you throw a certain energy out, you get a certain energy back
and it doesn't really matter where you are. You could be in L.A., New
York, Africa, or Japan. Music is universal, I love rocking anywhere.
feel like you get more love overseas or in the states?
We get love
everywhere. I don't think it's more in either place.
have stayed with Quannum instead of hopping to a major, how important
is it to keep building Quannum?
the family, Quannum is the base, Quannum is where we all came from and
started from with Xcel, myself, Lyrics Born, DJ Shadow, and Lateef the
Truth Speaker. Quannum is like our umbrella. We know that wherever we
go with our music, we always will have an outlet to put it out. We're
also able to bring new artists in and add to that roster.
heard much from DJ Shadow lately, what's he been up to?
on another album. It's coming out incredible. It'll probably come out
sometime in 2006.
you want to say to everyone out there?
the album man. It's real music, it's showmanship, dope lyricism, dope
production, check it out.