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Blazing Arrow

Blackalicious

Release Date: 04.30.02
Record label: MCA
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.

90 Music-Critic Score
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True Hip-Hop Style
by: bill aicher


In recent years hip-hop has taken an unfortunate turn towards dumbing itself down to ensure record sales to the masses and play on MTV and pop radio. True, rap has finally become one of the most popular forms of music in these times. The rather unfortunate side effect of this is the repeated lack of true quality found in this music. Today's popular rap music has become little more than a pop formula applied to hip-hop musical style. Fortunately, there are alternatives: i.e. Blackalicious.


Blazing Arrow asserts Blackalicious as one of an seemingly dwindling population of hip-hop artists who are doing their part to remain true to the roots of their music. Featuring a wide variety of collaborations with popular artists - from The Roots' Questlove to Ben Harper to Zach De La Rocha to Chali 2na, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel have succeeded in filling a gap which had slowly been becoming an open wound. Blazing Arrow is nothing short of astounding, with its expertly crafted beats, witty and thoughtful rhymes, and off the hook production. It's a fun album, an intelligent album, and (possibly surprisingly) a clean album.


The album opens with a Bootsy Collins-esque funky intro, which quickly gives way to the disc's first song, the album's title cut. "Blazing Arrow" features a quirky easy-going flow with a tasty flute loop and a sample from Harry Nilsson's "Me and My Arrow," setting the tone for the rest of the disc. On "4000 Miles" Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) and Lateef the True Speaker join Blackalicious' ranks, offering up bass/rasta vocals - a tribute to music and people - "We take a journey through music." The ?uestlove produced "Nowhere Fast" is a smoothed out vocal love trip featuring Miho Hatori (who also appears on "Passion") on backing vocals. Blackalicious also involve the mixing prowess of one of the biggest innovators of hip-hop / trip-hop on "Paragraph President" - a track mixed and produced by none other than DJ Shadow which ends in a true DJ Shadow downbeat sly mix.


From here out the album continues on this path of true-quality hip-hop. There's hardly a track that begs skipping; in fact one would be more inclined to skip back to repeat a track than to skip over. It's truly a collection of great tracks, and the album doesn't falter. The only drawback may be the extensive selection found here - at 17 tracks Blazing Arrow can be quite inundating. Still, for those looking for an album to hold them over until the next Roots disc, you won't find much better.


Hell - with what Blackalicious have done with Blazing Arrow you might just be alright if there never is a new Roots disc. Although it couldn't hurt if there were. 17-Dec-1998 11:00 PM