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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Blackalicious

The Craft

Review by Gary Hill

I know a lot of people out there think that hip hop is some sort of monolithic form of music where everything sounds the same. I’m here to say that’s not true. There’s a lot of variety in the form and Blackalicious brings a lot of that to the table. There is quite a bit of music here that’s even nearly prog rock in nature. This is cool stuff. With a lot of rap, though, and this is no exception, parents need to be alert for explicit language and the “n word.”

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
World of Vibrations
I love the old school hip hop styled raps on this. The music has some jazz and some space rock built into it. This is energized, catchy and fun. It's a great way to start it in style. There is a cool wind-down section mid-track. That gives way to a killer slow moving jam with some soulful, soaring female vocals. That movement takes the song to its end with finesse. It almost makes me think of Frank Zappa in a way.
Supreme People

Here we have a track that’s more straight ahead hip hip. The rap is easy to understand – and that’s a good thing. There’s a great groove to this one.

Rhythm Sticks

This is a fun rap with a very rhythmic element to it. This one, like most of the rest of the disc, feels very old school in nature, but with a modern take on it. There’s a killer solo on this.

Powers

More of a rock song, this reminds me very much of what you’d get if you combined Frank Zappa with Parliament.

Your Move

There’s a killer groove and a rhythmic rap on this one. We also get some cool guitar. This is one of my favorite pieces on the disc.

Lotus Flower

Now, this sultry number reminds me a lot of both Outkast and Parliament.

My Pen and Pad

Another rhythmically driven rap there are some hints of space rock on this, ala Hawkwind.

Side to Side

This starts off like a smooth and sultry R & B cut along the lines of 1970’s love grooves. Then it moves to a pretty straightforward rap with some interesting musical backgrounds. The music is quite jazzy and rather like a movie soundtrack. There is an intriguing closing groove with a spoken monologue.

Automatique

Smooth and sultry singing is alternated with a great female rap. It’s a very tasty number that makes me think a bit of Enigma. We get some other elements later.

Fall and Rise of Elliot Brown

This killer has some of the fastest rapping I’ve ever heard. There is also some great music. There’s a full on jazz jam later in this piece. Only a small amount of the rap is in that fast and furious style. Most is more smooth and easy to understand. There are sections here where the music really leans into progressive rock territory and this thing gets incredibly powerful and involved.

Black Diamonds and Pearls

They alternate a rap section with an almost Marvin Gaye-like soulful musical journey here.

Give It to You

This piece has multiple rappers and some music that really makes me think of Hawkwind. It’s a highlight of the disc.

Ego Sonic War Drums

Much of this is rhythmic in nature. The rap is tasty and they give us a short, more melodic movement later.

The Craft
"The Craft" in reference is the art of the rap. And in the rap on this one (which is accompanied by tasty rhythms and almost sci-fi movie like music) the rapper addresses how the gift of rap is a responsibility to the community. This is a man who understands that he represents as a role model and a voice for his audience and he doesn’t take that lightly. You can tell that he wants to be a force for good.
 
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