The moment was cinematic: two fans at a hip-hop concert debate over a Blackalicious album, minutes before rapper Gift of Gab and producer Chief Xcel walked on stage.
“The flow in ‘Blazin’ Arrow’ is unreal,” one of the fans, Frank Drebin, says near the corner of the stage, as the other fan somewhat disagrees. “It’s almost perfect.”
Drebin, a thin 21-year-old Caucasian Chicago native who’s been listening to Blackalicious for about four years, was excited. When asked if they were ready for Blackalicious to take the stage, he was one of the dozens of fans who screamed back “Yeeeaaahhh!” He was one of the hundreds of fans who packed The Roxy March 4.
It was about 11:10 p.m. and some people in the crowd were getting anxious. Rap artists Pigeon John, Fatlip of The Pharcyde and the Lifesavas had already performed.
The diverse crowd was about packed as sardines. Bodies were touching. People were drinking. It was all part of the concert experience.
Blue, red, green and other colored lights, along with a slowly rotating silver disco ball, decked The Roxy’s ceiling. The music vibrated the floor, people’s legs, ears and head, and almost every other organ in their body.
Fans were hungry for some more music.
Blackalicious made a one-time stop to The Roxy as part of its U.S. tour that will go on through April 29.
After a long wait since the show started at 9 p.m., Gift of Gab, of Blackalicious, stepped on stage, along with Chief Xcel and others.
With turntables, speakers and backup dancers behind him, and a large crowd in front, the fairly husky and more-than-6-feet-tall MC got down to business and started rapping.
Within a few minutes after his arrival, the crowd began to wave its hands back and forth, as Gab encouraged the masses to participate in the vibrant atmosphere. The concert was lively before, but this seemed to have turned things up a notch.
On the stage, the artist’s unique rapping style – a fast flow laced with metaphors and clever wordplay – was recognizable. The group performed music from songs on “Blazing Arrow,” “The Craft,” Blackalicious’ album released in 2006, and other albums.
Gift of Gab isn’t your average rapper, or person. He implied it himself, attesting that he “ain’t got no regular head.”
Raps about hos and money were not present in his lyrics.
Most of Blackalicious’ music on CD and on stage that night has high-paced beats with high tones that puts in you in high spirits. Each song he rapped was a golden nugget, something that made you think about what Gab says.
“We’d like to welcome you all again to the world of vibrations/Introduction to the nation of revolutionary thoughts/Hear the sound evolve expand and change,” he rapped from his song “World of Vibrations,” later rhyming, “When we’re done with these songs are our pension/MCs are puppets, me I’m Jim Henson.”
You could touch Gab if you wanted to. The dark room seemed to be getting hotter than a sauna, and the crowd almost as loud as a roaring waterfall, especially when Gab started to freestyle.
He seemingly spoke too fast to completely understand, but the crowd was wowed as two fans gazed into each others’ widened, surprised-looking eyes and called the lyricist “amazing.”
Gab and the rest of his crew also performed “Blazing Arrow,” “Rhythm Sticks” and several other songs. The rapper has been creating music with producer Chief Xcel early as 1995, when the duo released their EP album, “Melodica.”
The night seemed to be more than just a concert, though. Gab, the underground hip-hop star, considered it a night to celebrate music and hip-hop culture.
When compared to mainstream hip-hop, Blackalicious’ style is strange, as Gab raps about the “metaphysical” and spiritual matters, but it grows on you.
The crowd stayed for a chaotic encore and the night finished around 12:30 a.m. The group won’t be coming back to Cali in its current SXSW -driven U.S. tour. Although you probably won’t see them, unless you’re in Steamboat Springs, Colo., listening to the duo’s music will be a good addition to your hip-hop collection.
Samuel Richard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.