West Coast hip-hoppers, Blackalicious will bring their tongue-twisting, multi-syllabic, complex rhymes and classic beats to Grass Valley for a dance concert presented by the Center for the Arts Saturday.
In a hip-hop career that has stretched for nearly two decades, Blackalicious has earned respect the old-fashioned way — rising through honesty, commitment and artistry. The alternative hip-hop duo who first met at a Sacramento high school is made up of rapper Gift of Gab (born Tim Parker) and DJ/producer, Chief Xcel (born Xavier Mosley).
“We have been doing this for over 20 years. The way I see it, I have been able to make music, and I want to keep on making music. That’s the goal. The goal isn’t necessarily to go mainstream. The goal is to make music for the fans,” said Gift of Gab.
Like a few other West Coast rap acts, including the Pharcyde and Jurassic 5, Blackalicious has generally favored what hip-hoppers call the “positive tip” — their sometimes quirky lyrics are often spiritual and uplifting rather than violent or misogynist. The lyrics and music tell a story. Themes of having faith and finding purpose thread the music of Blackalicious.
Blackalicious was formed in the early ’90s, but founding members go back even further to 1987 when they were students at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento. Xcel (who went by DJ IceSki at the time) was a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, while rapper Gift of Gab was from the San Fernando Valley.
The two reunited in Davis in 1992 when Xcel was a student at the University of California at Davis. It was at the university where Xcel started working with a hip-hop crew named SoleSides, whose members included DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born.
In 1994, SoleSides Records released Blackalicious’ debut single, “Swan Lake,” which quickly became an underground hit among alternative rap audiences. The following year, SoleSides Records released another from Blackalicious called “Melodica.”
After SoleSides Records transformed to Quannum Records, it put out another recording by Blackalicious, “A2G.” In 2000, Quannum released the group’s debut full-length album, “Nia” (whose title is the Swahili word for purpose).
After an eight-year run as an indie hip-hop band, Blackalicious signed with major label, MCA. They make a point to keep their independent mentality during their musical evolution.
In 2002, Quannum/MCA released “Blazing Arrow,” with guest appearances by vocalist Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine) to the Roots’ ?uestlove to veteran soul singer Gil Scott-Heron. Both Xcel and Gab worked on solo material before pairing up again in 2005 for their third full-length album, “The Craft,” on the Anti- label.
“Ultimately we make music from the heart and we’re gonna continue. That’s our philosophy,” said Gift of Gab.
Spends Quality, classic West Coast intelligent Hip Hop, will also perform Saturday.
An MC, Producer and Party Promoter, Spends believes in the truth that music and culture can convey. Digging deep into his unique consciousness and life lessons, he’s crafted two full-length solo albums as well as three albums with soulful jazz hop collective, Sonicbloom.
Spends Quality has shared the stage with Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Souls of Mischief, Zion I, Mykah 9 and the Grouch.
Spends Quality is the owner and founder of CFO Recordings. Known for smooth and precise wordplay over neck-snapping beats with deep pockets, Spends Quality mixes soulfulness with intellect. He keeps heads nodding to funk nasty tracks and lyrical sincerity.
Nevada City’s own Scott Nice, aka Mr. Nice, will open Saturday’s show. Mr. Nice brings together massive hip-hop beats, intricate world polyrhythms and the art of turn-tablism to the world of electronic music.
With two turntables by his side, his live performance draws the audience into each blend, drop and dice of the mixer. Mr. Nice’s music reflects a wide and varied background. He can be found powering a crowded club with his multi-layered synth leads and dropping beats and rockin’ cuts for many hip-hop groups.
A fan of the mashup, Mr. Nice gains inspiration from combining disparate genres and cultural pieces together to form something fresh, balanced, new and alive.
In 2012, he released two singles on Full Crate Records Compilation Vol. I, followed by the album,‘Tribal Crunk’ in 2013 and two more singles.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. Saturday show are $28 for members of the Center, $32 for non-members and can be purchased at the Center’s Box Office in perosn, by phone at 530-274-8384, ext. 14 or online at http://thecenterforthearts.org/tickets/.