16 Songs, 56 Minutes


Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Mastered for iTunes


Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Mastered for iTunes

Ratings and Reviews

4.9 out of 5
21 Ratings
21 Ratings

real hip-hop

This is what real hip-hop sounds like!!! Just from the two songs on the pre-order,i know this is gonna be good. Blackalicious never disappoints.


Love this album

It's been so long since Blackalicious came out with a new album, and this one was worth the wait.

Alex Dionisio

Blackalicious come through for fans with the long awaited 'Imani Vol. 1'

Ten years is a long time to wait for an album, but if you're a fan of Sacramento, CA born hip-hop duo Blackalicious (emcee Gift of Gab and producer/DJ Chief Xcel), then you know that the depth and extensiveness of each of their albums are enough to keep studious listeners entertained for just about that long. The positive, conscious, highly lyrical and craftily composed and produced twosome have returned to the album-scene again this year with their fourth LP, Imani Vol. 1, which was released today on OGM Recordings. Occasionally signed to Quannum Projects (Latyrx, DJ Shadow, and others) but forever a part of the collective, Blackalicious' last studio album, The Craft, was released in 2005, and that album followed both Nia (2000) and Blazing Arrow (2002), also excellent efforts by the pair, who at one time were artists with record giant MCA. Just as expected and luckily for the group and their followers (but really everyone), Imani Vol. 1 succeeds on more than a few levels, offering several great treats for any and all who lend their time and ears to it.

A celebration of the beauty of life, Imani Vol. 1 promised and has the two foremost assets of Blackalicious: Gift of Gab's complex and meaningful rap lyrics and Chief Xcel's expertly produced beats with samples seamlessly and cohesively cut in to avoid gaps or distraction. Everything is smooth but impactful also. Gab skillfully and magnificently lays down a lot of handy material - black history and black endurance, common sense and logic, time and learning, positivity and balance, and not once does he squelch the very lyrical, poetic and expressive fire in his belly. In a few cuts, he devotes more time to flesh out and develop his messages. For instance, in "Escape," he encourages the ghetto's disadvantaged to work to become better pillars of their communities collectively, in "Twist of Time" he shows mountains of appreciation for the blessings he has received throughout his and his group's history, and in "Love's Gonna Save The Day" he effectually emphasizes the power of family love.

All work and no play would have made this album suffer, but to the rescue are those joints thrown in just to cool off to. The energetic thumper "The Sun" with Imani Coppola does just this as does "That Night" about a night in the NOLA during Mardi Gras featuring Vursatyl and Jumbo of The Lifesavas. In a way, "Alpha and Omega" fits in this same category and features Lyrics Born and Lateef of Latyrx spitting some much needed viciousness to counter-affect the almost overwhelmingly nice warm-fuzzies on the album. For flavor, there is a bit of flash to the beats, but it sort of acts as an aside to the well rooted, hip-hop based productions by Chief Xcel, whose awesome beat crafting work gives Imani 1 good longevity. There are some beats here that really pop, but real fans will notice that they don't bend over to cheap pop-music tricks. Guests on the album besides those already mentioned include Amde of The Watts Prophets, Myron, Danielle Flax and Zap Mama. Imani Vol. 1 is supposedly the first in a three part series, but it might prove harder to top than the Blackalicious guys think.

About Blackalicious

Like a few other West Coast rap acts, including the Pharcyde and Jurassic 5, Blackalicious have generally favored what hip-hoppers call the "positive tip"; in other words, their lyrics have often been spiritual and uplifting rather than violent or misogynistic. Like a lot of experimental alternative rappers, Blackalicious can be quirky and eccentric; nonetheless, spirituality is a big part of the group's music. Although Blackalicious weren't formed until the early '90s, their members had known each other since the late '80s. Founding members Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker) and Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley) first met in Sacramento, California, in 1987 when they were students at John F. Kennedy High School. Neither of them was originally from Sacramento; DJ/producer Xcel (who was going by DJ IceSki at the time) was a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, while rapper Gift of Gab was from Los Angeles' suburban San Fernando Valley.

The two went their separate ways after Gift of Gab (also known as Gabby T) graduated from Kennedy High in 1989, but they were reunited in Davis, California, in 1992. By that time, Xcel had become a student at the University of California at Davis and the Gift of Gab had moved to Davis to form Blackalicious with him. UC Davis was where Xcel had started working with a hip-hop crew named SoleSides, whose members included DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truth Speaker, and Lyrics Born. SoleSides Records was the name of the SoleSides Crew's Northern California record company, and in 1994 that label released Blackalicious' debut single, "Swan Lake." Although not a triple-platinum smash, the single was a small underground hit that fared well among alternative rap audiences. The following year, SoleSides Records released a Blackalicious EP titled Melodica. By late 1997 SoleSides Records had transformed into Quannum Records, and in 1999 Quannum put out another Blackalicious EP, A2G.

In 2000 Quannum released the group's full-length debut, Nia (whose title is the Swahili word for purpose). After being together eight years, Blackalicious finally signed with a major label when, in late 2000, the Californians were added by MCA. In April 2002 Quannum/MCA released Blazing Arrow, which boasted guest appearances ranging from vocalist Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine) to the Roots' Questlove to veteran soul and jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron. After the requisite tour, both Xcel and Gab began developing solo material; Quannum released both Maroons' Ambush (Chief Xcel with Latyrx's Lateef the Truth Speaker) as well as a Gift of Gab solo LP, Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. The pair returned in 2005 for their third album, The Craft, with a contract in hand from the Anti- label.

Although ten years passed without a Blackalicious album, Gift of Gab made three additional solo albums while Xcel teamed with RV Salters as Burning House. Gift of Gab and Xcel also worked on Imani, Vol. 1 during three of those years and released it as the fourth Blackalicious full-length in 2015. The likes of Lateef, Lyrics Born, Imani Coppola, and Zap Mama made guest appearances. ~ Alex Henderson

Davis, CA




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