New Album: ‘Imani, Vol. 1’
(Caroline International - CD / LP / digital)
Out 16th October
+ Autumn 2015 UK Live Shows Announced
“Another funk bomb” Noisey
“One of the best hip-hop acts” Billboard
“Limber verbal gymnastics and a dynamic, propulsive production style” Rolling Stone
On 16th October 2015, hip-hop royalty Blackalicious will release their first album in ten years - ‘Imani, Vol. 1’ - which finds the California-bred duo on top musical form and lives up to their hard-won reputation as one of the genre’s most progressive and forward-thinking creative forces. The album stays true to rapper Gift of Gab‘s clever tongue-twisting wordplay and DJ/producer Chief Xcel‘s unique melodies, delivered via a mix of production and live instruments.
‘Imani, Vol. 1’ - the first of a trilogy to be released over the course of two years - is Blackalicious' most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, maintaining the spirituality, introspection and positivity that are the twosome's trademarks. The circumstances around its creation offer one of the most inspirational examples of triumph over adversity in modern music.
Imani - whose title is the Swahili word for ‘faith’ - is an especially pertinent project for Blackalicious, with its title reflecting the personal trials that helped to inspire the new album’s words and music.
"Faith has been a big word in both of our lives in the last couple of years," Gift of Gab affirms. "We both dealt with some personal situations that really required faith and forced us to think about a lot of things. Most of our albums are about where we’re at that point in our lives and that’s definitely true on this one”.
‘Imani, Vol. 1’'s birth cycle coincided with Gab's ongoing fight for his health after suffering kidney failure and his continuing dialysis treatment while searching for a kidney donor.
"My kidneys failed at the top of 2012, when we were gearing up to do this record," Gift of Gab notes. "I got put on dialysis, so now when I travel or go on tour, I do dialysis wherever I go. When I got the news, there was a moment where it was a little dark, where I was questioning if I'm still gonna be able to do this. But then I had the realisation that no one can ever take my creativity away. I realised that this is a circumstance that I'm temporarily gonna be dealing with and that I have to make some adjustments for it, but that it doesn't stop me from being a creative person. Once I realised that, I started to feel inspired and just threw myself into writing, and that became a big part of the fuel for this record."
Although it's been a decade since the last Blackalicious release, the pair have remained busy with a variety of musical endeavours. Gift of Gab released three solo albums: 2004's ‘4th Dimension Rocketships Going Up’, 2009's ‘Escape 2 Mars’ and 2012's ‘The Next Logical Progression’. Chief Xcel worked with acclaimed soul singer Ledisi, and formed Burning House with R.V. Salters of General Eletriks, releasing the 2013 album ‘Walking Into A Burning House’.
"Blackalicious never stopped," asserts Gift of Gab. "We just wanted to explore other things as individuals and in 2012 we realised that it was time to return to the mothership. I was a little nervous at first and thought that it might take some time to rebuild. But when we started doing shows, we were selling out everywhere and people were telling us that they grew up on our music. It was encouraging to find out that, even after all these years, we're actually important to people.”
“It's like traveling," Gab continues. "It's always good to travel and see the world. But then when you come back home, you appreciate it that much more. We stepped right back into it, and it was like 'Oh yeah, I remember this. This is home.'"
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 fanbase.
"In my opinion, this is one of our best records," Gab agrees. "It's been a long time - we worked hard on it, and I hope that people enjoy it. People will come up to us and say 'Yo, that record changed my life' or 'That record helped me to get sober' or 'That record started me on a spiritual journey.' People say personal stuff like that, and we take it seriously."
"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 it 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."
The pair are joined on the new album by an esteemed cast of guest performers: Big Boi & Kanye West collaborator Bosko on ‘Inspired By’, Afro-pop diva Zap Mama on the title track, Amde Hamilton of legendary '60s rap progenitors The Watts Prophets on ‘Faith’, singer-songwriter Imani Coppola on ‘The Sun’, underground hip-hop duo LifeSavas on ‘That Night’, neo-blues auteur and NPR Tiny Desk winner Fantastic Negrito on ‘Love's Gonna Save the Day’, Myron of retro-soulsters Myron & E on ‘On Fire Tonight’ and the all-star hip-hop combo of Lateef, Lyrics Born, funk band Monophonics, and DJ D Sharp on ‘Alpha And Omega’.
Blackalicious is known for Gab’s “astonishing verbal dexterity and enunciation” (Pitchfork) and “Xcel’s utility beats and turntabilism” (Rolling Stone). Their own work has been sampled by Rae Sremmurd, honoured by Macklemore, and even rapped by Daniel Radcliffe live on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
‘Imani, Vol. 1’ is their fourth LP after 1999’s ‘Nia’ (Swahili for ‘purpose’), 2002’s ‘Blazing Arrow’, and 2005’s ‘The Craft’.
Blackalicious is Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker) and Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley).
‘Imani Vol.1’ - Album Tracklisting;
1. Faith (ft. Amde of The Watts Prophets)
3. Ashes To Ashes
4. On Fire Tonight (ft. Myron of Myron & E)
6. The Sun (ft. Imani Coppola)
7. That Night (ft. Vursatyl & Jumbo of The LifeSavas)
8. Inspired By (ft. Bosko)
9. We Did It Again (ft. Danielle Flax)
10. I Like The Way You Talk
11. Twist Of Time
12. The Blow Up
13. Love’s Gonna Save The Day (ft. Fantastic Negrito)
14. Alpha And Omega (ft. Lateef, Lyrics Born, Monophonics, & DJ D Sharp)
15. The Hour Glass
16. Imani (ft. Zap Mama)
***New Autumn 2015 UK Live Dates***
27 October Newcastle Cluny
29 October Nottingham Rescue Rooms
30 October Manchester Sound Control
31 October Glasgow Stereo
3 November Oxford O2 Academy 2
4 November Bristol Thekla
5 November Kingston-Upon Thames, Banquet Records (6pm instore gig)
5 November London Electric Ballroom
8 November Cardiff - The Globe
10 November Reading Sub 89
Tickets are available now from usual outlets.
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