Blackalicious’ career is now hitting the decade mark, and hopefully, now that MCA have won the bidding war to give them major label status (and hopefully the equivalent in marketing dollars), their career will be less sporadic than previously. Blazing Arrow represents a truly long awaited full length for the Bay Area duo Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab, following up 2000’s NIA. Blackalicious are on an elevated hip-hop path that is now showing signs of coming to full fruition. Blackalicious have always done things their own way and while NIA and other albums showed signs of genius, Blazing Arrow simply takes it to the next level. Xcel’s beats and musical canvases are like no other. Infused with funk, tempered with incisive grooves and fertilized with rich melodic sensibility, they reverberate with their own life. Add to that the superior lyrical skills of Gift of Gab and you have match made in hip-hop heaven. “Make You Feel That Way” should be one of the year’s anthems as Gab flicks brisk couplets around Xcel’s beautifully jazzy and soulful track. There’s a host of guests on the album such as Gil Scott Heron, Jaguar Wright, Chali 2Na, Ben Harper and others but they complement rather than clutter the album. “Release” is a three-part, nine-minute verbal and mental workout laced by Saul Williams, Zach De La Rocha and Lyrics Born. Blazing Arrow sets a benchmark for hip-hop – let’s hope others at least try and measure up.
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