Don’t Believe the HYPHE!
The Craft is easily one of the most experimental hip-hop albums of 2005. Blackalicious’ fourth album is sure to turn a few heads with a revamped sound as Chief Xcel incorporates styles from obscure genres of music. Electric guitars and synthesized instruments combined with samples can only be described as psychedelic/funk/soul hip-hop from the year 2010. Not to be outdone, Gift of Gab complements the beats with his signature streamlined flow and socially conscious topics. Here the group is more concerned in testing out a new sound rather than changing their existing one. Songs like “Ego Sonic War Drums” and “Powers” are the epitome of The Craft‘s experimentation. Although these songs should be honored for their exploration, they’re just not successful. “Powers” sticks out like a sore thumb, sounding like the soundtrack to a ’60s surf movie. A song like “Powers” plays more to the tune of other cutting-edge artists like Andre 3000 or Black Eyed Peas, but not Blackalicious. The album is best when Gift rhymes over soul samples with a slower and reflective flow. “Black Diamonds” and “The Craft” showcase Gift’s storytelling ability, describing scenes of inner-city struggle and moral dilemma. Chief Xcel has a way of bringing out emotions from a sample that, when combined with Giftâ€šÃ„Ã´s poetry, just sounds like Blackalicious.
Overall, The Craft is a step forward in terms of evolving the Blackalicious sound, yet as an album it lacks a cohesive group of songs that would give it a consistent identity. The best songs are reminiscent of Nia and Blazing Arrow,mastering the Blackalicious formula of chopped soul samples and complex rhyme schemes. Bottom line: the album sounds like, an experiment. Like every experiment there are hits and misses, and The Craft is no different.