Better known as Harry Potter than for rapping, Daniel Radcliffe shocked everyone last October when he gave a nearly perfect performance of Blackalicious’ extremely complicated “Alphabet Aerobics” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
Longtime fans of the rap collective are familiar with Blackalicious’ impressive, tongue-twisting lyrics, but Radcliffe’s performance shared their gift with even more fans and now, despite serious health issues, Blackalicious is overcoming all with a new album.
Titled Imani, the Swahili word for “faith,” this album represents more for Blackalicious’ DJ/producer Chief Xcel than just a set of songs. The album represents confidence in their music and the belief that that his Blackalicious partner and vocalist, Gift of Gab, is in a good place.
Gab, as Chief Xcel calls him, released three solo albums before his kidney failed due to Type 1 diabetes. Born about 43 years ago as Timothy Parker, Gab is continuing dialysis while awaiting a kidney donor. That experience, Chief Excel says, motivated Gab to return to Blackalicious.
“Gab is doing really well,” reports Chief Xcel, known to his parents as Xavier Mosley. “One, he’s doing great, and, two, his story is one of inspiration. It’s the kind of thing where he wants to show people that yeah, he has some sort of health adversity, but it doesn’t mean anything stops. Case in point: He’s in the most prolific period, creatively, of his life. He’s creating at the highest level, highest quantity of his life. He’s definitely thriving on every level.”
Imani sees Blackalicious thriving as a whole. It features appearances by Lifesavas and Lateef, both of whom will open for Blackalicious at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Friday, September 18. Also contributing to the album are Japanese-American rapper Lyrics Born, funk band Monophonics, polyphonic Afro-Pop singer Zap Mama and Fantastic Negrito, who won a performance on NPR’s“Tiny Desk.”
Chief Xcel says he and Gab had to stay focused on Imani, which is the first of three volumes. Volume one is due out September 18, with volume two following in the middle of 2016. The closing collection, Chief Xcel guesses, will reach listeners at the top of 2017.
“We recorded and wrote 60 songs for it so far, and we’re still recording,” Chief Xcel says. “It’s a work in progress. It’s kind of like writing a story. It has a beginning. It has a middle, and it has an end. It’s been a lot of work. For it to almost be out and to be able to share it with the planet is a good thing.”
Blackalicious w/Lateef And Lifesavas, Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Avenue, Phoenix, 602.716.2222, crescentphx.com, Friday, September 18, $18-$20