In the music industry waiting ten years to release an album is tantamount to committing career suicide; trends come and go at such a fast clip that to keep fans waiting is a gamble most aren’t willing to take, especially in rap where lyricists crash and burn faster than NFL running backs.

Blackalicious‘ latest album Imani Vol. 1 is an attempt at reigniting a style that defined independent rap during the early aughts. And while it takes a moment for them to shake off the rust, by the end they deliver a product that is worthy of Blackalicious’ standards, an album that pieces together all their strengths from the past and launches it into the future.

Things gets off to a slow start, like reacquainting yourself with an old flame. “Blacka” for example is uncharacteristically out of sorts; Gab’s righteous lyrics and rapid-fire deliver pairs well with Xcel’s soulful beats, but the hastiness of it reads as haphazard and out of sync: [LISTEN]


There’s an air of nostalgia with Imani Vol. 1, but it doesn’t linger or anchor the album down. They use it to reassert themselves and regroup like a preseason team who adjusts their game plan while out on the field.

Chief Xcel digs deep into his bag of records and pulls from a catalog that resonates well with the current climate. He fuses soul and boogie with classic boom-bap, the crushing drums framing Gab’s voice in such a way that has them sounding like vintage Blackalicious.

On “The Sun” we see the two finally connect. Xcel laces the beat with a quirky melody, which complements Gab’s nasally tone. The off-key harmonies keep Gab light on his lyrical toes, and he responds by flowing with urgency — the song brimming with optimism: [LISTEN]

The Sun

Blackalicious does the right thing by not bogging down the album with guest features. There are plenty, but they are placed strategically in a supporting cast role. It’s the Blackalicious show all the way through.

We Did It Again” is the touchstone of the album. Over a friendly Harry Nilsson inspired beat (who took center stage on Blazing Arrow) we get a sense of how much Blackalicious has been through. The hope is that it won’t end anytime soon becuase they have a chance to go down as the greatest rapper/prodcuer combo since Gang Starr. And if the hook is any indication of things to come then Vol. 2 will be one step closer to that reality: [LISTEN]

We Did it Again