released Nov 23rd
from the album - Escape 2 Mars
YouTube - Gift of Gab - Escape 2 Mars
Gift of Gab made his name as the technically adept MC in the vaunted underground rap duo Blackalicious, in partnership with producer/DJ Chief Xcel. Born Tim Parker, he grew up mostly in Pacoima, part of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley region, but attended high school in Sacramento. There he first met Chief Xcel (born Xavier Mosley) in 1987. Parker, then calling himself Tiny T or Gabby T, was already developing keen skills as a battle MC, and he and Mosley teamed up the following year. After graduating, Parker returned to Los Angeles, but he and Mosley kept up their partnership by phone. While attending UC-Davis, Mosley fell in with a group of hip-hop eccentrics who became the SoleSides collective, and Parker moved up to the Bay Area to join him in 1991, now having settled on Gift of Gab as his hip-hop alter ego. Blackalicious issued their debut single, "Swan Lake," on SoleSides in 1994, and several more followed, establishing their underground reputation and leading to a tour of Europe. They began work on a full-length album, during which time SoleSides shut down and reconfigured itself as Quannum; however, the process was long and laborious, as Gift of Gab struggled with an alcohol problem that took several years to overcome. Finally, in 1999, Blackalicious re-emerged with 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 perhaps the most underappreciated elite MC in hip-hop.In the wake of Blazing Arrow's critical hosannas, Gift of Gab branched out with a number of guest appearances, recording with the likes of DJ Vadim, British hip-hoppers New Flesh, and Michael Franti & Spearhead. In early 2003, he underwent emergency eye surgery necessitated by complications from diabetes, but fortunately made a full recovery. Seeking outside collaborators to keep himself fresh for the third Blackalicious album, Gift of Gab embarked on a solo project for Quannum with two Seattle-based producers, Vitamin D and Jake One. Advance single "The Writz" appeared in late 2003, and the album itself, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, arrived in the spring of 2004. Reviews of the production work varied widely, but overall the record — a smooth, mellow affair — solidified Gift of Gab's position as one of the top MCs of his time, underground or otherwise.
Gift of Gab, the verbally adept (as his name rightfully implies) MC and one half of the seminal indie hip-hop group Blackalicious, has certainly been busy since the last Blackalicious album, The Craft, came out in 2005. It's been more than a while, though, since he's sounded as quick and witty and fun as he did on either of his group's first two albums (2002's Blazing Arrow and 2000's phenomenal Nia). Gab's 2005 solo debut felt unfocused and spacy, his mixtapes not much better, and while his work as part of the Mighty Underdogs (with fellow Quammie Lateef and Crown City Rockers producer Headnodic) had moments that reaffirmed why he's been such a lauded rapper, it didn't quite connect the way his earlier efforts did. Thankfully, Gab seems to have found himself again on Escape 2 Mars, his second official full-length. Much of this is due to the production (by DNAE BEATS and Headnodic), which is full and melodic and very, dare it be said, Chief Xcel-esque. Though the record has the initial trappings of a concept album gone awry (humans have destroyed Earth, and therefore have to move to Mars), the MC mercifully keeps these ideas to just a couple of songs, both of which are good: the eerie "Electric Waterfalls" (which features vocals from Joyo Velarde and Lateef), and the title track, which has a vocal bit seemingly taken from the 2006 Stern Review and finds Gab bringing eighth notes in to his preferred triplets, and rhyming, rather adeptly "Two zero one two party over oops/out of sight, time, mind, illuminati deathtrap/blind, deaf and dumb, crazy bent eighty percent/wiped out, sniped out, burn, baby, burn get/hit when we coulda been turning the cell phones off...," a kind of reprise to Blazing Arrow's "Sky Is Falling," that somehow, given contemporary circumstances, feels much more menacing and real. Themes may be revisited ("Richman, Poorman" is reminiscent of "Deception," "El Gifto" is a quirky boast on his skills, kind of like "A to G," but without the alliteration), but Escape 2 Mars stills comes across as fresh and meaningful and fun. The excellent verses from fellow underground heroes Del and Brother Ali on "Dreamin'" help this, of course, but the album is a success because Gab himself come across as confident and focused. He knows what he wants to say and how to say it, and doesn't beat around the bush. That is to say, it's exactly what you would want from him: all meat and wit and amazingly nimble rhymes, no filler. And that, if nothing else, is something to celebrate.
1 E2Mtro Parker 2:13
2 El Gifto Magnifico Parker 3:23
3 Light Years Parker 3:14
4 Dreamin' Brother Ali ... 5:07
5 In Las Vegas Parker 3:26
6 Escape 2 Mars Parker 3:35
7 Electric Waterfalls Parker 4:05
8 Richman, Poorman Parker 4:20
9 Some of the People Parker 2:48
10 Spotlight Parker 4:35
11 Rhyme Travel Parker 3:51