Local Wire

Blackalicious @ Crescent Ballroom

Sacramento, California-based hip-hop duo Blackalicious has released three full-length records in the two decades it's been in action: 1999's Nia, 2002's Blazing Arrow, and 2005's The Craft. But don't dismiss Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker) and DJ/producer Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley ) as slackers. Though they might not appear to be a prolific outfit, Gift of Gab crams more rhymes into his three-or-four minute songs than most rappers manage on half an album. He's dizzying on tracks like "Rhythm Sticks" and "Alphabet Aerobics," the latter of which finds him demonstrating a masterful command of the English alphabet. But it's not all about speed: On the "Fall and Rise of Elliot Brown," Gab starts off quick and gets quicker, before the bottom falls out of his warp-speed flow and he eases into a populist anthem boosted by Xcel's jazzy funk bedding. "Police be throwin' you a vibe even from a young age," he raps, describing an all-too-typical scenario — kid gets caught up in bad shit and goes to jail for it. But it doesn't end there. Elliot Brown trascends a system set against him. "Looking within, not without, got honest," Gab raps, the character figuring out that he's royalty, not garbage. It's the sort of story that might lose its message at a brisk blur, but Blackalicious knows its timing. They'll follow up the record when they're ready to, and it'll be worth the wait.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.