Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon.
As one of the fathers of Blackalicious, Gift of Gab is – despite his size – a lyrical acrobat. A leader who took a small local sound and made it global. His delivery is smooth and lean, and his stories hold to it a distinct and utterly unique combination of sci-imagination and comedy. He’s had his ups and downs, certainly, but is still no less deserving of a nod from all those who appreciate quality lyrics.
On Blackalicious’ first EP Melodica you can hear the potential looming over every verse. It’s raw, but the penmanship is there speaking well beyond its years. “40oz for Breakfast” is a highlight, and features a sloven Gab who can’t help but fall back into his love affair with the sauce. It’s almost a success story, until he ends up saying ‘forget it’ and downs another 40oz: [LISTEN]
The self-deprecation is an unexpected treat for a man of Gab’s stature – remember, people are still clamoring for someone to fill the big poppa role that Biggie had left behind. But in the end his honesty has paid off. That song became an anthem for an entire generation of slackers.
By 2004 Gab was already a superstar, albeit of the indie variety. The three albums with Chief Xcel as Blackalicious put his full arsenal on display. His lyrical prowess had matured and he had settled into a nice groove, a perfect set up for his solo debut 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. He was at his best on that album, and approached every song as a new opportunity – as fresh a debut as that decade had seen.
The way the opener “The Ride of Your Life” silks into that Joe Pass riff is scintillating, and Gab doesn’t hold back delivering his decree with his token rapid-fire, yet highly rhythmic style: [LISTEN]
It took Gab five long years to release a follow up. You barely heard a word from him, and just when he was getting started, too. He finally broke his silence with Escape 2 Mars, which was solid but lacked the continuity of his debut. Still, it was a good way to shake off the rust.
His last album The Next Logical Progression is vintage Gab. He sounds as clear and as focused as ever. It has fans eagerly awaiting Blackalicious’ new album Emoni (due out in July.) Lyrically Gab is sharp. He’s a bit older, wiser and it sounded like he was finally able to put some of his demons behind him.