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Blackalicious at Paid Dues 4.jpg
Blackalicious duo Chief Xcel (left) and Gift of Gab performing at the Paid Dues hip hop festival in 2008
Background information
Origin Sacramento, California, United States
Genres Alternative hip hop, West Coast hip hop, indie hip hop
Years active 1994–present
Labels Quannum Projects
MCA/Universal Records
Associated acts DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truthspeaker, Lyrics Born
Members Gift of Gab
Chief Xcel

Blackalicious is an American hip-hop duo from Sacramento, California,[1] made up of rapper Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel.[2] They are noted for Gift of Gab's often tongue-twisting, multisyllabic, complex rhymes[3] and Chief Xcel's "classic" beats.[4] The duo have released four full-length albums (1999's Nia, 2002's Blazing Arrow, 2005's The Craft, and 2015's Imani Vol. 1). Gift of Gab has stated that Imani Vol. 1 will be the first in a three-volume series to be released over the next two years.[5]


1992-1999: Formation of Blackalicious, Quannum Projects[edit]

While Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel spent their early childhood years in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area respectively, the two first met while attending John F. Kenndedy High School in Sacramento, California.[6] At the time, Gift of Gab was known as Gabby T, while Chief Xcel went by the stage name of DJ IceSki. After graduating from Kennedy High in 1989, the two went their separate ways.

In 1992, during a time when Xcel was attending the University of California, Davis, Gift of Gab joined him in Davis, California to form Blackalicious. At UC Davis, Xcel had been working with a hip-hop group named Solesides, whose members included DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truthspeaker, and Lyrics Born. Solesides Records was the name of the collective's Northern California record company, and in 1994 the label released Blackalicious' debut single "Swan Lake", which garnered acclaim within the independent music scene.[7] In 1995, Blackalicious released an EP titled Melodica under Solesides Records.[8] By 1997, Solesides Records had transformed into the now acclaimed Quannum Projects, and under this label, the group released an EP titled A2G in 1999.[9]

2000-2004: Nia album, MCA Records, Blazing Arrow album[edit]

In 2000, Blackalicious released its full-length debut album Nia under Quannum Projects.[10] Later that year, the group signed a major label deal with MCA Records.[11] In 2002, Quannum/MCA released Blazing Arrow, which boasted guest appearances including Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine), Questlove (of The Roots), and legendary soul and jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron. Blazing Arrow contains the song "Make You Feel That Way", which became a fixture on radio stations. Following a promotional tour, both Xcel and Gab began working on separate projects. In 2004, Gift of Gab released his first solo album, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up.[12]

2005-2012: The Craft album, addiitonal solo projects[edit]

The pair returned in 2005 for their third album The Craft, released under ANTI- and Quannum Projects.[13] For this album, the group worked with Grammy Award-winning engineer Russell Elevado. The album contained more live instrumentation compared to previous Blackalicious albums, and was met with positive acclaim. Following the release of The Craft, Gift of Gab joined a supergroup called The Mighty Underdogs, which released an album Droppin' Science Fiction in 2008.[14] Gift of Gab then went on to release two additional solo albums, (Escape 2 Mars in 2009 and The Next Logical Progression in 2012).[15][16]

2014-2015: "Alphabet Aerobics" in pop culture, Imani album[edit]

On October 28, 2014, actor Daniel Radcliffe (famous for his role as Harry Potter in the popular film series) flawlessly recited the full lyrics to the Blackalicious song "Alphabet Aerobics" after being challenged by host Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. Upon challenging Radcliffe, Fallon had stated, "That's one of the trickiest, fastest songs I know."[17] Since then, the lyrics to "Alphabet Aerobics" have been recited throughout media outlets in various contexts.[18]

In 2015, after ten years since releasing a project together, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel announced the fourth Blackalicious album Imani Vol. 1. The group partnered up with PledgeMusic to give dedicated fans the opportunity to purchase the album and other special items, with over 120% of the project's goal funds being met.[19] Imani Vol. 1 was released on September 18, 2015, and was well-received by critics.[20][21]


  • Melodica (Mo Wax, 1994)
  • A2G (Quannum Projects, 1999)
  • Deception Remixes (Quannum Projects, 1999)
  • "Swan Lake" / "Lyric Fathom" 12" (Solesides, 1994)
  • "Deception" 12" (Quannum Projects, 1999)
  • "If I May" / "Reanimation" 12" (Mo' Wax/Quannum Projects, 2002)
  • "Paragraph President" / "Passion" 12" (MCA Records/Quannum Projects, 2001)
  • "Make You Feel That Way" / "Sky Is Falling" 12" (MCA Records/Quannum Projects, 2002)
  • "Your Move" / "My Pen And Pad" 12" (ANTI-/Quannum Projects, 2005)
  • "Powers" (ANTI-/Quannum Projects, 2006)
  • 4/20: Live In Seattle (2006)


  1. ^ Piazza, Paul (February 28, 2013). "Sat., March 02, Blackalicious: Harlow's Restaurant & Nightclub". Sacramento News & Review. Retrieved July 26, 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Edwards, Paul, 2009, How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, Chicago Review Press, p. 322.
  4. ^ Shapiro, Peter, 2005, The Rough Guide To Hip-Hop, 2nd Edition, Penguin, p. 307.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Blackalicious - Biography & History". 
  7. ^ "Blackalicious - Swan Lake at Discogs". 
  8. ^ "Blackalicious - Melodica (MoWax)". discogs. Retrieved 21 July 2009. 
  9. ^ Swihart, Stanton. "A2G - Blackalicious". AllMusic. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Blackalicious - Nia". Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ Blazing Arrow - IGN review
  12. ^ Bush, John. "4th Dimension Rocketships Going Up". All Music. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Jack Booty (2005-09-27). "Blackalicious: The Craft". Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  14. ^ Bush, John. "Droppin' Science Fiction - The Mighty Underdogs". AllMusic. Retrieved January 11, 2015. 
  15. ^ Brown, Marisa. "Escape 2 Mars - Gift of Gab". AllMusic. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  16. ^ Jeffries, David. "The Next Logical Progression - Gift of Gab". AllMusic. Retrieved January 14, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Daniel Radcliffe Raps Blackalicious' "Alphabet Aerobics" on The Tonight Show". 2014-10-28. 
  18. ^ "Local News Reporter Warms Up By Rapping "Alphabet Aerobics"". 2014-12-19. 
  19. ^ "Blackalicious: 'Imani Vol. 1' on PledgeMusic". 
  20. ^ "Blackalicious: Imani, Vol. 1 | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2015-09-19. 
  21. ^ Mincher, Chris. "Imani, Vol. 1 · Blackalicious · Music Review · The A.V. Club". Retrieved 2015-09-19. 

External links[edit]