Gift Of Gab - Escape 2 Mars
- Catalogue No:
- Other Tongues
- Release Date:
2. El Gifto Magnifico [free download]
3. Light Years
4. Dreamin’ (Feat. Del The Funky Homosapien & Brother Ali)
5. In Las Vegas
6. Escape 2 Mars
7. Electric Waterfalls
8. Richman, Poorman
11. Rhyme Travel
Oakland rapper Gift Of Gab (born Timothy Parker) made his name as the technically adept MC in the vaunted underground rap duo Blackalicious, in partnership with producer/DJ Chief Xcel. After moving to the Bay Area both Gab and Xcel became associated with a group of hip-hop eccentrics who became the SoleSides collective (to be later shut down and reconfigured as the now legendary Quannum) which included DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truth Speaker (known together as Latyrx). It was a scene centred on rowdy radio shows and all-night living-room freestyle sessions. Gab joined DJ Shadow to record “Count and Estimate” as part of Shadow’s side of the first SoleSides label 12-inch in late 1992 which was released to underground acclaim.
Blackalicious established their underground reputation through debut single “Swan Lake”, and the ‘A2G’ EP, whose “Alphabet Aerobics” electrified the underground and marked Gift Of Gab as a prodigious new talent. That talent was confirmed by Blackalicious’ first two full-lengths, 2000′s ‘NIA’ and 2002′s ‘Blazing Arrow’, which elevated him to the status of the elite hip hop MCs.
Gab embarked on his first solo project for Quannum with two Seattle-based producers, Vitamin D and Jake One in 2004. The record, ‘4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up’, solidified Gift Of Gab’s position as one of the top MCs of his time, underground or otherwise. It’s been five years since his solo debut, not that Gab has been slouching. In 2005, Blackalicious released a third album, ‘The Craft’, and in 2007, Quannum mainstay Lateef recruited Gab for The Mighty Underdogs, a collaborative project with producer Headnodic of Oakland’s Crown City Rockers.
It’s great to finally hear Gab on his own again, and in exceptionally fine form, on his new solo album, ‘Escape 2 Mars’, which has been released o/s to blazing reviews. His weighty vocal presence once again presents a mesmerising, impossibly fluid flow. Like his solo debut, there seems to be a galactic theme at work, though ‘Escape 2 Mars’ is more about Earth. The title track was inspired by a benefit show Blackalicious did to raise awareness of global warming. Despite its catchy bounce, the song runs through a dark list of catastrophic outcomes. “Electric Waterfalls” meanwhile, tackles another hot-button issue: the exploitative excesses of the medical industry. “Those concepts were just in my head”, Gab explains. “Those two songs set the tone for the record. I didn’t go too deep into that stuff on other songs, ’cause I didn’t want a whole record about conspiracy theories and global warming”.
Gab enlisted beats from Headnodic and San Francisco producer DNAEBEATS. Heavyweights Brother Ali and Del the Funky Homosapien guest on the tour de force “Dreamin”, and there are cameos from locals Lateef, Joyo Velarde, and Honeycut frontman Bart Davenport. Such guests were especially useful when it came to singing the hooks Gab had in his head. “Obviously, I’m not a singer”, he readily admits. “I have this one range I can hit, but I wouldn’t sing on every song”. Despite his obvious place in the hip-hop pantheon, Gab acknowledges “you’re always perfecting it as you go. I try to stay free with it. I don’t ever want people to put their finger on what I’m gonna do”.
8/10 “This album rolls like the best of Blackalicious… An ambitious set, and clearly a Bay Area attempt at the big league. Like hip hop used to sound. Praise be” – CLASH
★★★★ “A blend of daisy-age hip hop, space-jazz experimentation and neo-soul, with notes of electro-rock and psychedelic pop… Supremely groovy” – UNCUT
★★★★“Dizzying rhymes, cadences and subject matter that transcend typical battle raps, delivered with presence and vigor… Gab’s gift remains strong” – URB
★★★★ “Fresh and meaningful and fun… It’s exactly what you would want from him: all meat and wit and amazingly nimble rhymes, no filler” – ALL MUSIC