Blazing Arrow
Record label: Quannum/MCA
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 30 April 2002

Critical acclaim often doesn't sell records. Many groups have been lauded as revolutionary, "cutting edge" and embarking on something new and different only to be lost in the shuffle of pop mania. Let's hope that with Blazing Arrow, the fourth release by Blackalicious, critical acclaim turns into financial success for this amazing crew. The long overlooked underground tandem (who have been named by many a peer as the latest hip-hop crew since Ultramagnetic MCs to not receive enough credit) finally have scored a major label release and they took the ball and ran with it. While Nia definitely stated a purpose, Blazing Arrow covers all facets sonically and conceptually. The mighty Chief Xcel brings a very funky and soulful feel to this album - solid production all around. As usual, Gift of Gab shares his amazing flow and slightly left-of-center lyricism that grabs your attention.

From jump you get the feeling this is a special album as the intro sets us up for the feel good vibe this album creates. Gift of Gab touches on life and provides inspiration to those who need it with cuts such as "First In Flight," "Make You Feel That Way," "Passion" (featuring Rakaa of Dilated Peoples) and "Green Light: Now Begin." As an emcee, Gab's personal and powerful content breathes maturity into this album. On "Chemical Calisthenics," he picks a new concept to flip like no one else: the periodic table. He just might of missed his calling as a guest on Sesame Street or 3-2-1 Contact as he breaks down the entire table and weaves in and out of different chemical compounds and reactions as his flow rides the constant twists and turns of Cut Chemist's schizoid rhythms. It almost sounds part spoken word.

Guests on this album include poets Gil Scott-Heron and Saul Williams, folk singer Ben Harper, Quannum crew members Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker, Charlie 2na, Jaguar Wright, and Dilated Peoples. The best track on the album is "4000 Miles" as Gab, Charlie and Lateef break down what music means to them and the impact it has. Another must hear is "Paragraph President" - Gift rips it. This album has a little of everything, but it's interwoven in a way where there is cohesion and not just 17 tracks put together. Blazing Arrow could be a metaphor for uplift and enlightenment, a beacon of hope and happiness in a world seemingly too busy with things that are not important. However you want to slice it, Blackalicious has brought forth a fun and musically fulfilling album.

{mikal lee (hired gun)}

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