Two decades after releasing a debut album, west-coast hip-hop duo Blackalicious are still filling up and selling out venues as the group’s show at Toronto’s Adelaide Music Hall proved. The legendary pair, emcee Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel, hit the stage to perform legendary tracks such as “Alphabet Aerobics”, “Sky Is Falling” and “Swan Lake” to a hype crowd who spit along with the microphone controller. After announcing that fans could expect a new album titled Emoni in March of next year, Gab performed an a capella version of the unreleased, heavy-lyrical track “Blacka”, which received much praise from the audience. Following the performance, Gab sat comfortably with his eyes closed, cooling off after the heated performance, and spoke with Urbanology Magazine on the Blackalicious legacy, the state of west-coast hip-hop and what fans can expect from the new album.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO STILL BE FILLING UP VENUES? I was just thinking about that today… we obviously stopped doing shows for a minute and this past year and a half; we have been doing shows again. Just the fact that people are still riding with us after all this time – it’s amazing. It really feels good, because there was a time when it was starting to feel like, we hadn’t put out a record in a minute so, we would have to do some rebuilding. We put our first record out in the early ’90s and the fact that we are still here and we are still doing packed houses is amazing.
AND THERE WERE A LOT OF YOUNG CATS OUT THERE TOO… As long as they keep coming and they’re still wanting the music, we’re going to keep providing them with music.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A GOOD PERFORMANCE TO YOU? Tonight was a good performance. When you can feel the crowd being entertained, you can gage off of the reaction of the crowd, what they’re doing while you’re on stage and how much noise they’re making and you can look at their faces and tell that they are enjoying themselves and they are thoroughly being entertained and getting their money’s worth.
We put our first record out in the early ’90s and the fact that we are still here and we are still doing packed houses is amazing.
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET TO LONGEVITY? I think you just have to love what you do. I think it is just a matter of staying passionate about what you want to do as an artist and an entertainer. To me, art is an eternal quest. I think, everybody in my crew, we are all trying to make records that stand out…We are passionate about making albums and each album is made from a different time period when there are different artists out and the sound is different and we are like, “Let’s be competitive. Let’s put our stamp on this time period.” The day I don’t feel like we are able to do that, I don’t see that coming, but that will probably be the day that we’ll probably stop.
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN WEST COAST HIP-HOP EVOLVE TO WHAT IT IS TODAY IN YOUR TIME IN THE GAME? You’ve got everyone from Hyro to Freestyle Fellowship – the early ’90s was a very special time to me. To me, I like to refer to that as the west-coast renaissance age, because it was really just incredible music. You had Snoop and Dre and the whole G-Funk think, E-40 and Too Short. There were so many sounds in California. You’ve got so many sounds and different styles of music and they are all like 20 minutes from each other. To me, that’s what is dope about the west coast. Can you really say that there is a west coast sound or is it just about good music?
… The early ’90s was a very special time to me. To me, I like to refer to that as the west-coast renaissance age, because it was really just incredible music. You had Snoop and Dre and the whole G-Funk think, E-40 and Too Short. There were so many sounds in California.
WHERE DO YOU THINK THAT BLACKALICIOUS FITS INTO THAT? We have always just made good quality hip-hop. The thing about us is, we’ve had fans that are like college kids and older, like in their 60s and then we’ve had fans at like 10, 11. It seems like people who are into good music and music lovers gravitate towards us.
AFTER ACCOMPLISHING SO MUCH, WHAT IS THE MOTIVE NOW? The motive now is just to continue the legacy. We are older now, but I also feel like this new record is stage two of our career. That’s what my dream is. We all have this legacy, but I want to continue. I want to do this for the rest of my life. I want generations to come to discover our music.
Interview By. Samantha O’Connor + Photos By. Fitzroy Facey