When: Sat., March 25, 9 p.m. 2017
Way before actor Shia LaBeouf's recent display of surprisingly impressive bars on SiriusXM, actor Daniel Radcliffe had already graduated from Harry Potter nerdom to rap wizard, three years earlier, on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show. There, in front of millions of viewers, he effortlessly rapped the entirety of "Alphabet Aerobics," by California hip-hop duo Blackalicious. "I've always had kind of an obsession with memorizing complicated, lyrically intricate and fast songs," said Radcliffe after the deed. "It's a disease," he added.
In hip-hop's favor, Blackalicious frontman Gift of Gab must also suffer from a similar disease. He boasts a heroic penchant for springing verbose, intelligent rhyme schemes and themes onto compositions—especially those of his longtime resident producer and beat master, Chief Xcel. The duo's major-label debut, 2002's Blazing Arrow, gave them ample room to create high-functioning phases of tranquility ("Make You Feel That Way"), mad science ("Chemical Calisthenics"), and exhibitionism ("Green Light: Now Begin"). And then there's the Afrofuturistic bluesology of "First in Flight," which featured Gil Scott-Heron on one of the only recorded hip-hop collaborations of his lifetime.
While not as cozy as Blazing Arrows, Blackalicious's 2005 follow-up, The Craft, was an aggressive push to let some of Xcel's musicality catch up to the alt-rap approach of his frontman, Gift of Gab, who had just released his solo album 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. Produced entirely by two of hip-hop's heaviest beat tacticians, Jake One and Vitamin D, 4th Dimensional delivered Gift of Gab back into the arms of his lyric fetishizers who appreciated rapid-fire runs like, "Riffin' in the octave of the infinite provocative/come get within a rocket ship/dimensions of a positive/inventions that is monstrous."
With the recent release of the "It's Just Practice" single alongside an announcement of a forthcoming solo EP titled Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again!, it seems as though Gift of Gab is back in the rapper's seat, even if Chief Xcel isn't riding shotgun this time around. Xcel is still his deejay, though, so the two will always perform together, even if the beats are from friends of the family. Now your job is to polish up your memorization of "Alphabet Aerobics" so you're not out-rapped by a boy who's known more for playing Quidditch than he is for emceeing. —Eric Tullis