our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
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:
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.
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.
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.
liked Blazing Arrow...
Intro: Bow & Fire
2. Blazing Arrow
3. Sky Is Falling
4. First In Flight
5. Green Light: Now Begin
6. 4000 Miles
7. Nowhere Fast
8. Paragraph President
9. It's Going Down
10. Make You Feel That Way
11. Brain Washers
12. Chemical Calisthentics
13. Aural Pleasure
15. Purest Love
16. Release Part 1,2 & 3
17. Day One