by Adam LeBlanc
Lyricist Gift of Gab and DJ-producer Chief Xcel make-up the legendary BLACKALICIOUS who, for over 15 years have repeatedly pushed the envelope and set new precedents with Gab’s uber-clever thought-provoking lyrics and dextrous delivery and Xcel’s timely executed beats, breaks, rhythms and samples.
Acts that consistently bring this much substance to the table oftentimes have little to no room for improvement in a live setting. Each cut being so meticulously planned and constructed that the notion of anything aside from studio work reaching this calibre seems to be an absurdity. With the release of last year’s “4/20 Live In Seattle” DVD Blacklicious proved this notion very wrong and re-confirmed their place as a bona fide elite West Coast act.
Returning to the Pacific Northwest, Blackalicious brought a solid opening act with them in Boston’s Crown City Rockers. Fronted by gifted emcee Raashan Ahmad this quartet really mixed it up, with their apex coming late in the set when Ahmad and drummer/lyricist, Headnodic exchanged machine gun speed verbal assaults while the other provided the brisk beat on a snare drum.
Now in proper mindset, the crowd was salivating in eager anticipation of the Northern California headliners to grace the stage. After a humble intro Gift of Gab completely opened-up with his brilliant and dizzying fluidity. At this point, those who were not previously familiar with Blacklicious were easily recognized – they were the random Vancouverites with baffled stares, open mouths and noticeably lower jaw bones.
Chief Xcel supremely contributed to the live nature of the show by furiously and methodically demonstrating his magic somewhere between his decks and a Macbook at the back of the stage. Multi tonal-laden beats, varying tempos and well-selected samples added perfect complement to Gab’s verses and physical theatrics.
Elated, the crowd really could not ask for more. They got more.
At the halfway mark in the show, Gab introduced close friend and also very gifted lyricist Lateef the Truth Speaker who has closely collaborated with both members since 1992. Currently, Gift of Gab and Lateef make-up The Mighty Underdogs while Lateef and Chief Xcel together are know as The Maroons.
The chemistry between the three veterans was quickly apparent to all as they presented awe-inspiring versions of many classic Blackalicious cuts. Having Gab and Lateef on the same stage, interacting lyrically and physically added a dimension to the show that noone could have expected but was definitely received in the greatest of satisfacition.
In all, the show was far more than expected; it showcased the strengths of a legitimate underground pioneer and helped me confirm the repeated rumors I’ve heard that hip hop is alive and well in Vancouver, BC.