As in all things, with time, we hope for progress and usually anticipate inevitable change, and while it can be wholly difficult and even more frustrating to gauge the progress of time within our society, at least we can relish the growth of our beloved artists that have kept us oh so inspired throughout the years. From Jurassic 5 to Dilated, we now find Blackalicious on the precipice of greeting an impending fame. Independents on Majors – a trend many could only hope for some 5 years back, a trend many find worrisome as their cross-over favorites fall privy to the overtly polished sounds and concepts that seem always to arise after said ‘power moves’. Commence testing.
Polished is one good description of Blazing Arrow, in the sense that Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab have connected all the loose ends that left Nia somewhat conceptually tangled, the 17 songs are blazed and segued gracefully, successfully binding the unlearned new-jack to (most of) the know-it-all hard-rocks. This is slick, sturdy, and solid, yet at times perhaps too slick for its own good.
Don’t get your attitude all up in a twist though, because Gab is still nice as fuck on the mic and Xcel is still wickedly underappreciated as a producer, and together actually make great strides as a matured group throughout Blazing Arrow. Penning the complicated and subtle, Gab’s gift is truly exposed on the wild “Chemical Calestenics”, the wilder “Release” and the touching “Nowhere Fast”; the latter exemplifying a neo-soul strut that characterizes much of this album’s conscious. It’s something indicative of their growing up as men, both in the rap world and real world; but something that could also divide fans. Granted, nothing is taken lightly on Blazing Arrow, granted again, most of the hooks are crooned and sung (quite beautifully and tastefully at that) backed by a warm ambience that brings people like Gil Scott Heron (“First In Flight”), Ben Harper (“Brain Washers”), Jaguar Wright (“Aural Pleasure”), and Saul Williams out the box for interesting collaborations. Is that MTV I hear knocking on the door? Probably. It’s the dawning of an age and with this dawn marks a change, accept it and grow along with your artists, decline and live in the past. It’s on you.
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