- 2 x LP
- Music On Vinyl
Blazing Arrow is the major-label debut of underground hip-hop act Blackalicious, and if it sounds like they had more money to work with than ever before, at least they spent it well. The layered production, the mess of styles, and the three-ring circus of guest stars turn this into a breakthrough record. But what makes it a masterpiece is that Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel can hold it together with the directness of their vision of strength and hope: this is unstoppably joyous, a complicated album that feels as natural as sunshine on your forehead.
Xcel and Gab canvas thirty years of funk, soul, hip-hop and modern R&B;, skipping from one to the other every song.
As for the guestlist: it's impressive, not just because of the big names that lent a hand, and not just because they sound good, but because some of them have never sounded better. There are plenty of guest rappers-- Lateef the Truth Speaker, Chali 2NA, and Lyrics Born, to name a few-- but the other vocalists are surprising. Will Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha ever have another chance to shout on a record this mature? And Gil Scott-Heron's basso profundo firms up "First in Flight"-- he didn't even sound that good back when he sounded that good. Fellow SoleSides alumnus DJ Shadow slips in a between-tracks interlude, and Saul Williams gets a showcase for his gnarled, elaborate verses in "Release." And Questlove of the Roots co-wrote and plays drums on one of the album's standouts, the missed-opportunities rumination of "Nowhere Fast."