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The Craft

4.3 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

With their third full-length, Blackalicious have produced a record of such sonic depth and lyrical ambition that it can proudly stand alongside the work of Bay Area funk fathers Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis, or hip-hop classics like Outkast's Aquemini and The Roots' Things Fall Apart. But The Craft isn't nostalgic for some golden era that never existed. Lyricist Gab moves beyond the introspection of earlier albums, and musically, Xcel accomplishes beats that touch on classic funk sidling cosily alongside the orchestral sweep of Stereolab. Features guest appearances by George Clinton, Floetry, Lateef The Truth Speaker, and Pigeon John. Anti. 2005.

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This is the kind of album that divides fans. On one side, there are the ones that will see the Bay Area hip-hop duo composed of rapper Gift of Gab and producer Chief Xcel taking a logical step forward, recruiting high-profile guests (George Clinton, Floetry) and banking on a more commercial sound with effervescent R&B tracks like "Powers," "World of Vibrations" and "Lotus Flower." Then there are those that will lament the passing of the band's vintage, more meaningful sound. As if the crew was expecting the cynics to turn up to the party, midway through the album dramatically shifts gears--out goes the pop and in comes the soul via "The Fall & Rise of Elliot Brown" and "Black Diamonds & Pearls." You might suspect West Coast conscious rap contemporaries Black Eyed Peas stood at the very same crossroads before they sold their first million. --Aidin Vaziri
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 27, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Anti
  • ASIN: B000AMJDDI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,941 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nicholas Adam Chupka on September 27, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Four and a half stars

In 2003-2004, Quannum records did no wrong. Albums by The Lifesavas, Lyrics Born, The Maroons, and Gift of Gab garnered widespread acclaim and catapulted the record label to a new level. An absolutely mind-blowing, life-altering, existence-reaffirming tour with nearly the whole crew displayed the cohesiveness, brotherhood, and outright talent of this label.

One cannot deny, though, the significant role that Blackalcious' Nia and Blazing Arrow played in giving 2003-2004 the forum in which to shine. I remember hearing of Blackalicious on a very obscure Philly jamband's listeserv, and within a year, Best Buy was advertising Blazing Arrow in their newspaper inserts. Added to that, the inspiring, smooth as silk vocal delivery and classic funk-based beats hooked this listener immediately, making this duo one of my favorite hip-hop acts of all time.

The Craft continues in the spirit of its parents. Well, probably more like ancestors, as The Craft is more of a logical progression than the progeny of the last two efforts.

Once again, music masters Gift of Gab and Chief X-Cel focus heavily on expanding the evident influences, and styles of music. "Powers" is a 70s soul/funk masterpiece which, at moments, brings to mind many modern electronic (by no means techno!) and Dirty South hip-hop tones.

Many other tracks, like "Side to Side", "The Fall and Rise of Elliott Brown" (which is also one of the obligatory Gift at lightspeed tracks), and "Egosonic War Drums" (THE obligatory lightspeed track) also represent a voyage into un-chartered territories, and all with success.

"Black Diamonds and Pearls" with its well known vocal sample, and "Rhythm Sticks" display that well-known Blackalicious sound I fell in love with.
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Format: Audio CD
Blackalicious. After listening to this album practically everyday for the last 3 weeks, all I can do is shake my head when I say their name. Gab and Xcel cut down all the artificiality (again) and with a firm shake of the earth, establish themselves among hip-hop's elite. As if Nia, and Blazing Arrow weren't enough (not to mention A2G), they bring one of the most complete albums hip-hop has seen in years. Gab let's you know on the first two tracks "World of Vibrations" and "Supreme People" that he knows more about the hip-hop world than you do. Xcel also shows that can make music that makes what you just pulled out of your stereo sound like a blind kid on a $10 Casio garage sale keyboard. The music he produces draws the distinction between the "heartbeat" of true hip-hop, and the "flatline" of commercialized rap. They make it very clear very early that their newest album is going to be the best one you bought in a while.

After these two tracks, you come across "Rythm Sticks." With concepts reminiscent of "Alphabet Aerobics" and "Chemical Calisthenics," Gab creates an acronym of BLACKALICIOUS that by itself expands your mind. 2 verses later, he spits a verse that few in the hip-hop world are capable of now. Maybe the collective efforts of Jurassic 5, or a Talib Kweli, but they would only be duplications--Gab already did it.

Forget the "commercialization" criticism you hear about them bringing in George Clinton and Floetry. If that is commercialization, then everybody you like and can easily get your hands on a CD of is commercial. I'll lay off that criticism until they get a "Chopped and Screwed" version of Nia, which I can confidently assume will never happen. So don't listen to that stuff.
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Format: Audio CD
Blackalicious is my favorite rap group. From their overstylized production to their soulful structures of the English language, they are the definitive group of "conscious style" rapping.

First of all, "The Craft" is a digression from their previous work. Instead of the epic story-telling and quirky and blatant displays of skill, like their songs "Cliffhanger" and "Alphabet Aerobics," "The Craft" took a different route, reaching out to their roots and having a style that was reminiscent from their material on the "Solesides" album. The songs are more stylish than substance and on this album, they just get weirder and somewhat mainstream. Instead of having grand songs of celestial influence, they have chosen to have songs in the style of R & B and a lot more jazz and funk influenced, with numerous songs dependent on the chorus for catchiness. "Powers" is extremely catchy, but it sounds like something that would be played in a Volkswagen commercial. "Rhythm Sticks" is merely a song in which Gab stylishly spells out "BLACKALICIOUS." Gift of Gab truly displays his style of motormouthing, and much of this album sounds like nonsense rather than substance, which is, like I said earlier, reminiscent of their old-school days.

There are no songs that are powerful enough to stand above the rest. There are no grand, epic, specific songs that I immediately fast-forward to on my CD player. However, it is that trait that makes this album unique- it must be listened in its entirety to be fully appreciated, like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." The album is extremely more enjoyable when you listen straight through it at once, because the songs' quality and order melt together to form one great piece of work.
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