The beloved California-bred Blackalicious featuring duo Gift of the Gab and Chief Xcel plus Lateef the Truthspeaker have a hard-won reputation as one of hip-hop's most progressive, forward-thinking creative forces.
They have recently released their first new album in a decade, Imani, Vol. 1 (September 2015). It features the long acclaimed sublime combination of Gab's verbal dexterity and lyrical eloquence, and X's bracing beats and distinctive soundscapes. Reminiscent, of course, of their wildly inventive, personally charged innovations of their first three albums, 1999's Nia, 2002's Blazing Arrow and 2005's The Craft.
Three years in the making, Imani, Vol. 1—the first of a projected trilogy to be released over the course of two years—is perhaps Blackalicious' most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, maintaining the spirituality, introspection and positivity that are the twosome's trademarks, while making it clear that their musical vision and creative drive remain as strong as ever.
With Imani, Vol. 1 demonstrating that Blackalicious is as potent a creative entity as ever, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel are embracing their return to the spotlight, and looking forward to reconnecting with their loyal, demographically diverse fan base.
"Our audience seems to be people who see music and art as essential parts of life, and not just disposable accessories," Chief Xcel concludes. "That's who we make music for—people who need music in their life. I'm one of those people. Imani is Swahili for faith, and that's really where we're at at this juncture. We're so rooted in our purpose that we don't have to second-guess, we just know. There's no fear of the unknown, there's just the fire to move forward and get to wherever the journey takes us.