Beat Poetry

Blackalicious is a hip-hop group for people who don't necessarily like hip-hop, as well as for people who do. Their new CD, Blazing Arrow, is, among other things, melodic, funny, clever, creative and spirited, with nary a hint of the puffed-up rancor that plagues so much of the genre. It says a lot about their style and substance when you realize that they're sampling Harry Nilsson's "Me and My Arrow" on the title track.

"I call it soulful hip-hop, plain and simple. We just really strive to make music with soul, integrity and passion," says Chief Xcel, co-founder of the group. But to be fair, they're considerably more ambitious than that, and their sound reaches into the grab bag of pop and jazz as well. "We're into all different genres, all different types of music, and we try to bring as much of that into our sound as possible to keep it growing and developing."

Blackalicious was born in the Bay Area in 1991 when Xavier Mosley (Xcel) and Tim Parker (Gift of Gab) met in high school. Eleven years later, they're part of a national tour with Public Enemy and Dilated Peoples, and their October 4 gig here promises to be nothing short of spectacular.

"To be in a tour with PE is a blessing for us, because seeing PE as a 14-year-old in 1989 formed in my mind a standard of what hip-hop shows should be," says Xcel. "At that time, the dopest shows were Public Enemy, Digital Underground, and a little later Cypress Hill. Our show is a result of those influences, and I think you'd see the same in Dilated Peoples' set," he says.

About the Valley, Xcel has this to say: "We were out in Phoenix about two years ago with Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, and it was dope. There was 1,500 people and it was bananas -- one of my favorite shows from that tour. I'm excited to get out there and do some diggin'."