“”Don’t let money change ya!”” proclaimed Blackalicious at their show on Nov. 20 at Canes in Mission Beach. True to their word, they have not.
Blackalicious released their EP in 1999 and followed up with their full-length album “”Nia”” in 2000. In the early 1990s, Blackalicious helped to establish the underground hip-hop scene in San Francisco and, even today, continue to stay true to their origin. Known for their funky beats and lyric-induced imagery, Blackalicious are notorious for keeping the crowd perpetually moving and hyped up. Their lyrical skills, fresh originality and interaction with the audience made this show quite possibly the best hip-hop show all year.
Blackalicious’ “”Nia”” really struck a chord in the underground with its true hip-hop flavor. Gift of Gab, the group’s forefront lyricist, along with producer DJ Chief Xcel, have been creating some of the most innovative, personal and witty lyrics and beats since they started out in 1994. Gift of Gab’s talent is stupendous and is not fully graspable until seen in the flesh.
Gift of Gab performed the infamous song “”A to G”” from the new album and finished off with “”Alphabet Aerobics.”” These songs consist of a plethora of alliterations and tongue twisters. In addition, the beat gets faster with each consecutive letter so that the lyrics get so swift that they seemingly trip over themselves. However, Gab maintains his breath and pronunciation, though the crowd has to take a deep breath after this performance. His variety in pitch and meter is very distinctive, and matched with Xcel’s vintage beats and sampling from the ’70s and ’80s makes a divine combination. How Gab manages to go from a robotic monotone to a syrupy flow to a ghetto drawl with each song remains a mystery based in his endless talent and repertoire.
Gab is not the only one with shining talent. Gab’s partner MC, Lateef, has a lyrical style influenced by dancehall. He gave a stunning performance, and his energy in managing the crowd never seemed to cease. His style of rapping and singing compliments and contrasts with Gab’s.
Another highlight of the show was Erinn Anova, whose soulful and powerful voice weaves through the songs and gives emotional punch to their choruses. This trio of innovators never disappoints its audiences.
The performances of “”Deception”” and “”You Didn’t Know That Though”” show off the inventiveness of the group’s lyrics and beats, which are influenced by tribal sounds and synthesized instruments. The driving rhythms of these songs, along with sing-song choruses, got the members of the crowd involved and bobbing their heads.
Gab and Lateef even did a flow over the beats from the legendary Roger & Zapp. As a contrast to the other beat-heavy songs, “”Shallow Days”” and “”If I May”” are contemplative pieces that flow like storytelling. These lyrics are smart and personal narratives that keep the crowd interested and emotionally connected.
The show was 18 and up, a rare occurrence in San Diego. Because most people 21 and older argue that an 18 and up age requirement makes for an annoying show, it was a surprise that the crowd was more excited and conscious of the music than any pretentious and self-conscious group of young hipsters. Breakdancing circles formed, and kids were practically on top of each other to be near the front.
It was exciting to have San Diego host a group such as Blackalicious. If you don’t have their old album or their “”Quannum Projects”” album, or you haven’t heard them yet, wake up and give them a listen. Their music is honest and original, not overproduced like much of what crowds the airwaves today.
— Chako Suzuki