Guest ListNo Guest List Available
TicketsNo Tickets Available
Event Details11.8 Thursday (Hip-Hop)
Nectar & SolidSound present:
DJ Indica Jones
Soundcloud "We're older, we're wiser, we're more mature," MC Gift of Gab (nee Timothy Parker) says of Imani, Vol. 1, Blackalicious' first new album in a decade. "It's better now, because we've grown as people and artists."
"Each one of these records is a chapter in our lives, and we put our complete heart and soul into it," agrees Gab's longtime musical partner, CJ/producer Chief Xcel (aka Xavier Mosley). "We live these records."
Imani, Vol. 1 lives up to the beloved California-bred duo's hard-won reputation as one of hip-hop's most progressive, forward-thinking creative forces. Acclaimed for the sublime combination of Gab's verbal dexterity and lyrical eloquence, and X's bracing beats and distinctive soundscapes, Blackalicious has earned widespread respect, both inside and outside of the hip-hop community, for the wildly inventive, personally charged innovations of its first three albums, 1999's Nia, 2002's Blazing Arrow and 2005's The Craft.
Three years in the making, Imani, Vol. 1—the first of a projected trilogy to be released over the course of two years—is perhaps Blackalicious' most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, maintaining the spirituality, introspection and positivity that are the twosome's trademarks, while making it clear that their musical vision and creative drive remain as strong as ever.
Although Imani, Vol. 1 is driven by Gift of Gab's uplifting verbal sophistication and Chief Xcel's expansive sonic sensibility, which are as distinctive as ever on such riveting tracks as "On Fire Tonight," "Escape," The Sun," "We Did It Again" and the epic "Alpha and Omega."
The pair is joined by such guest performers as Afro-pop diva Zap Mama, who's featured on the title track; Amde Hamilton of legendary '60s rap progenitors the Watts Prophets on the album-opener "Faith," eclectic singer-songwriter Imani Coppola on "The Sun," underground hip-hop duo LifeSavas on "That Night," neo-blues auteur Fantastic Negrito on "Love's Gonna Save the Day," Myron of retro-soulsters Myron & E on "On Fire Tonight," and the all-star hip-hop combo of Lateef, Lyrics Born, Monophonics and DJ D Sharp on "Alpha and Omega."
Imani—whose title is the Swahili word for "faith"—is a particularly personal project for Blackalicious, with its title reflecting the personal trials that helped to inspire the words and music.
"Faith has been a big word in both of our lives in the last couple of years," Gift of Gab affirms. "We both dealt with some personal situations that really required faith and forced us to think about a lot of things. Most of our albums are about where we are at that point in our lives, and that's definitely true on this one."
Imani, Vol. 1's birth cycle coincided with Gab's ongoing fight for his health after suffering kidney failure.
"My kidneys failed at the top of 2012, when we were gearing up to do this record," Gift of Gab notes. "I got put on dialysis, so now when I travel or go on tour, I do dialysis wherever I go. When I got the news, there was a moment where it was a little dark, where I was questioning if I'm still gonna be able to do this. But then I had the realization that no one can ever take my creativity away. I realized that this is a circumstance that I'm temporarily gonna be dealing with, and that I have to make some adjustments for it, but that it doesn't stop me from being a creative person. Once I realized that, I started to feel inspired and just threw myself into writing, and that became a big part of the fuel for this record."
Although it's been a decade since the last Blackalicious release, the pair has remained busy with a variety of musical endeavors. Gift of Gab released three solo albums, 2004's 4th Dimension Rocketships Going Up, 2009's Escape 2 Mars and 2012's The Next Logical Progression. Chief Xcel worked with acclaimed soul singer Ledisi, and formed Burning House with R.V. Salters of General Eletriks, releasing the 2013 album Walking Into A Burning House.
"Blackalicious never stopped," asserts Gift of Gab. "We just wanted to explore other things as individuals, and in 2012 we realized that it was time to return to the mothership. I was a little nervous at first, and thought that it might take some time to rebuild. But when we started doing shows, we were selling out everywhere, and people were telling us that they grew up on our music. It was encouraging to find out that, even after all these years, we're actually important to people.
"It's like traveling," Gab continues. "It's always good to travel and see the world. But then when you come back home, you appreciate it that much more. We stepped right back into it, and it was like 'Oh yeah, I remember this. This is home.'"
"Once we got into the studio," Chief Xcel recalls, "everything flowed very naturally. We just got in there and kind of let the album make itself. When we were in the studio together, it was pretty effortless, because we know each other so well creatively. We wrote about 60 songs for this record, and went with the ones that we felt strongest about. And about 90 per cent of it is live tracks; it's probably the fewest samples I've ever used on a record."
"X gave me the beats, and I just went in and wrote every day," Gift of Gab states. "There was not a lot of thought or planning this time, it was more about action. It was just, as soon as it moves you, you write something. There was not a whole lot of thought put into it. It was more like 'OK, let's create.'"
"We're like two kids who've been playing basketball together since the second grade, and now they're in the NBA so they really know each other and can anticipate each other's next move," Chief Xcel says of his and Gab's enduring partnership. "It's totally instinctive, and we kind of communicate without talking. I know just from his physical reaction, when he hears a beat or a song, if there's a spark or if he feels inspired. And vice versa; he can tell by my immediate reaction if we've hit the mark or not. That just comes from time."
With Imani, Vol. 1 demonstrating that Blackalicious is as potent a creative entity as ever, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel are embracing their return to the spotlight, and looking forward to reconnecting with their loyal, demographically diverse fan base.
"I think that this album is coming from a very honest place, and I really think that this is the most creative and prolific point of our careers, so we're really excited about it," Chief Xcel says, adding, "The next year or two, it's gonna be a nonstop balance of touring and being in the studio working on Volumes 2 and 3. We're definitely looking forward to seeing how things evolve and change."
"In my opinion, this is one of our best records," Gift of Gab agrees. "It's been a long time, we worked hard on it, and I hope that people enjoy it. People will come up to us and say 'Yo, that record changed my life' or 'That record helped me to get sober' or 'That record started me on a spiritual journey.' People say personal stuff like that, and we take it seriously."
"Our audience seems to be people who see music and art as essential parts of life, and not just disposable accessories," Chief Xcel concludes. "That's who we make music for—people who need music in their life. I'm one of those people. Imani is Swahili for faith, and that's really where we're at at this juncture. We're so rooted in our purpose that we don't have to second-guess, we just know. There's no fear of the unknown, there's just the fire to move forward and get to wherever the journey takes us."
Chali 2na MC. Musician. Actor. Painter. Renaissance Man.
Chali 2na has done it all. From his days growing up on the hardscrabble streets of Chicago’s south side, to his subsequent explosion onto Los Angeles’ burgeoning hip-hop scene, to his tenure as MC for seminal hip-hop group Jurassic 5, Chali epitomizes the portrait of a 21st century artist.
To be sure, with his unmistakable, beloved baritone, Chali has firmly established himself as one of the most distinctive, charismatic personalities not just in hip-hop, but music in general.
Only a select few can say they’ve rocked microphones in front of thousands at a sold-out arena in Tokyo with Jurassic 5, spit rhymes at Lollapalooza, painted professional caliber oil color paintings in their California home and lent their distinctive bass-heavy voice, to such mega-brands as Coca Cola and Sega Dreamcast.
Now, buoyed by the wide spectrum of socio-cultural and geographical influences that have shaped him—hip-hop’s Renaissance man released his first solo album Fish Outta Water on Decon Records in the spring of 2009.
Indeed, this deeply personal body of work reveals a side of the long time Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli front man that his fans have never seen, a story from start to finish of his life, loves, triumphs and let downs, weaving in a powerful selection of beats from the likes of Scott Storch and Jake 1 and memorable appearances from Damian “Jr. Gong” and Stephen Marley, Anthony Hamilton, Beanie Man and others.
“I wanted this album to expose who I am as an artist. The majority of people know me from Jurassic 5 and Ozo, but I felt like nobody knew me as an artist,” Chali says. “I want to show you all facets of who I am. Man. Husband. Brother. Father. Son. Painter.”
Indeed, Chali’s diverse tastes—from the blues he was raised on to the political gangsta’ rap he loved to the graffiti art he sprayed as a teenager—flow from this album, like the oil colors Chali uses for his paintings.
There’s the Fury-produced,“Righteous Way,” an interpolation of Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings Of You,” where Chali tells the story of his life through the eyes of his father, his 17 year- old son and himself.
Or the Scott Storch driven “Love Is Gonna Get You,” where Chali offers up his own take on the fabled KRS-One song that inspired this 21st century version.
“KRS was talking about how love was going to engulf his brother. This song talks about how love makes you do the strangest things, how it infects your heart and changes you forever,” he said.
Of course, no body of work involving Chali 2na would be complete without his trademark, articulate, spitfire rhymes, the sort of fearsome battle raps which first caught the ear of so many back when he honed his skills in Los Angeles’ storied underground hip-hop scene of the early nineties.
On “Don’t Stop,” featuring the ever-soulful Anthony Hamilton, Chali beckons everyone– from revolutionaries to thugs to dime pieces–to leave their troubles at home over a melodic, flute-infused hook.
“Getting sick of the bickering from my peers and such. Bringing lyrics to keep your ears in touch,” he rhymes, daring anyone to test his mettle while playfully requesting that you too take your body to the dance floor in the same breath.
Indeed, Chali’s debut features a seemingly endless litany of groundbreaking tracks, which touch on topics the veteran musician has never bared to his listeners before. Whether it’s the trauma he experienced from the shooting death of a childhood friend to the twists and turns of his own family lineage, to the resistance to injustice that has always been imbued in Chali’s music, Fish Outta Water, is quite simply, a life’s worth of songs in the making.
Says Chali: “I want to free people’s asses and let their minds follow. To not be preachy, but to make them aware of what I’m about. I want to enlighten, but I ain’t trying to be a bumper sticker either.”
No doubt, there’s still plenty of fire in Chali’s lyrical arsenal. His days of training at the legendary Los Angeles hotspot, the Good Life Café, have taught him well. Only now, he’s fused the bass-heavy bravado with his own life’s story, and in doing so, creates an album of work that’s not only superb, it’s important.