Blackalicious Takes Us to School
Uh, it's embarrassingly obvious here how little I know about hip-hop. Hey, don't blame a girl for trying.
Bay Area two-man rap act Blackalicious, made up of Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab, will not only put on a show for Albuquerque this week, they're releasing their fifth full-length studio album, The Craft, on Sept. 27. Gift of Gab recently spoke with the Alibi's hip-hopically challenged Jessica Cassyle Carr.
Okay, so when did you guys start gaining success with what you do?
Have we? (Laughs) Have we ever? I don't know. I never even looked at it like that.
Well, I think you guys are definitely respected.
It's definitely been a blessing, you know--to be able to travel and do what we love to do. But for us, to even look at it like that is too much work.
I wanted to ask you about corporate versus independent hip-hop. I know that in one of your albums you have a song about Cisco [you may remember Cisco from the "The Thong Song"] and selling out and stuff like that.
About "Deception?" About the song "Deception" itself?
Or just in general. Corporate vs., you know, underground. Maybe music in general ...
I don't even like to get caught up into that "corporate/underground" cliché. At the end of the day if it's good music, it's good music. That's how I judge it. You know a lot of people think that if something has gone platinum or beyond that it's automatically commercial or if it's being pushed by a big corporation it's automatically commercial. There's a lot of great music that is in that category. And then a lot of people think that if you're underground, that you're automatically dope because you're underground. That's not the case either. At the end of the day, the way we look at it, it just comes down to making good music, and good music varies depending upon your taste, depending on what you like.
Well, what's your taste? What kind of stuff do you like to listen to the most?
Right now I'm listening to Little Brother. I'm listening to Kanye West. I'm listening to a lot of old classics like Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield. I always put some Bob Marley in my backpack. The Common record (Be). I've been listening to the Common record a lot.
What's your take on the chauvinism that you hear a lot in hip-hop?
I think art is emotion and I think that's a human element. I don't think it makes it right. That's not necessarily what I talk about in my music, but I think art doesn't have to be right or wrong; the only thing art has to be is honest. Whether it's morally right or it's morally wrong, art doesn't have to really be either. I think we could use a little more of a balance of everybody's point of view today, so that it's not all one way. But to answer that question is like asking, "How would I feel about a certain person that's like that in their real life?" When I judge an artist, it's like I'm judging their honesty. If they're a gangster and that's what they live, then be creative about it. If they're “a conscious person,” whatever that means, then be creative about that. I'm judging by talent first and by sincerity.
So what kind of stuff do you guys try to be sincere about? You know, what kind of principles are you guys founded upon or do you have any specific message?
I wouldn't even necessarily say it's a message; it's just an experience that's being shared. It's just my experience and our experience as human beings being shared where we are today. It's not really coming from a place of "you should be like this" or "you shouldn't be like that." It's just individuals telling their own personal stories.
What kind of experience do you want people to have, listening to your music and seeing your performance?
We just want people to feel the raw emotion of the music and be able to take it with them.
I don't know if you feel this way, but I kind of feel as though a lot of people find it easy to write off rap and hip-hop; do you think that that's true?
How can you write it off right now? It's the biggest force in music right now. I don't see how that's possible today (laughs), you know what I mean?
Well, how did it get to be such a big force in music?
I think it's something that spread. It's a culture that spread and many people caught onto it and, of course, it started to become marketable so major corporations got involved and made it even more accessible. So it's just very accessible right now.
Is there really a difference between rap and hip-hop or are they synonymous?
Rap is an art form. Rapping is the actual act of rapping. Rapping is a verb. Rap music is music. Hip-hop is a culture. Hip-hop is the whole way of relating to the world.
Thanks. This issue that you're going to be included in is the minimum wage issue. We've got that on the ballot in our upcoming elections (Oct. 4, people) and so do you have any comment about minimum wage?
It needs to be brought up (laughs). Bring it up! Pay people more for their labor.
And what can people expect to see when Blackalicious comes here on Sept. 23?
Expect raw hip-hop. Expect showmanship and expect just raw music.
Blackalicious performs at the Sunshine Theater Friday, Sept. 23, along with Kool Keith, KRS-One, Guru and Esham, as part of the Bring That Beat Back Hip-Hop Festival. The show is all-ages and doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $22.50.