Blackalicious is an American hip-hop duo from Sacramento, California, made up of rapper Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel. They are noted for Gift of Gab's often tongue-twisting, multisyllabic, complex rhymes and Chief Xcel's "classic" beats. The duo have released four full-length albums (Nia in 2000, Blazing Arrow in 2002, The Craft in 2005, and Imani Vol. 1 in 2015). Gift of Gab has stated that Imani Vol. 1 will be the first in a three-volume series to be released during the next two years.
1992-1999: Formation of Blackalicious, Quannum Projects
While Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel spent their early childhood years in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area respectively, the two first met while attending John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento, California. At the time, Gift of Gab was known as Gabby T, while Chief Xcel went by the stage name of DJ IceSki. After graduating from Kennedy High in 1989, the two went their separate ways.
In 1992, during a time when Xcel was attending the University of California, Davis, Gift of Gab joined him in Davis, California to form Blackalicious. At UC Davis, Xcel had been working with a hip-hop group named Solesides, whose members included DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truthspeaker, and Lyrics Born. Solesides Records was the name of the collective's Northern California record company, and in 1994 the label released Blackalicious' debut single "Swan Lake", which garnered acclaim within the independent music scene. In 1995, Blackalicious released an EP titled Melodica under Solesides Records. By 1997, Solesides Records had transformed into the now acclaimed Quannum Projects, and under this label, the group released an EP titled A2G in 1999.
2000-2004: Nia album, MCA Records, Blazing Arrow album
In 2000, Blackalicious released its full-length debut album Nia under Quannum Projects. Later that year, the group signed a major label deal with MCA Records. In 2002, Quannum/MCA released Blazing Arrow, which boasted guest appearances including Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine), Questlove (of The Roots), and legendary soul and jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron. Blazing Arrow contains the song "Make You Feel That Way", which became a fixture on radio stations. Following a promotional tour, both Xcel and Gab began working on separate projects. In 2004, Gift of Gab released his first solo album, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up.
2005-2012: The Craft album, additional solo projects
The pair returned in 2005 for their third album The Craft, released under ANTI- and Quannum Projects. For this album, the group worked with Grammy Award-winning engineer Russell Elevado. The album contained more live instrumentation compared to previous Blackalicious albums, and was met with positive acclaim. Following the release of The Craft, Gift of Gab joined a supergroup called The Mighty Underdogs, which released an album Droppin' Science Fiction in 2008. Gift of Gab then went on to release two additional solo albums, (Escape 2 Mars in 2009 and The Next Logical Progression in 2012).
2014-2015: "Alphabet Aerobics" in pop culture, Imani album
On October 28, 2014, actor Daniel Radcliffe (famous for his role as Harry Potter in the popular film series) flawlessly recited the full lyrics to the Blackalicious song "Alphabet Aerobics" after being challenged by host Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. Upon challenging Radcliffe, Fallon had stated, "That's one of the trickiest, fastest songs I know." Since then, the lyrics to "Alphabet Aerobics" have been recited throughout media outlets in various contexts. Blackalicious also reworked the song with sports-themed lyrics for Bleacher Report.
In 2015, after ten years since releasing a project together, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel announced the fourth Blackalicious album Imani Vol. 1. The group partnered up with PledgeMusic to give dedicated fans the opportunity to purchase the album and other special items, with over 120% of the project's goal funds being met. Imani Vol. 1 was released on September 18, 2015, and was well-received by critics.