Album: The Gift of Gab

4th Dimensional Rocketships Going up, QUANNUM / EPITAPH
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No other musical form seems quite as preoccupied with careerism as hip hop. Rappers are either boasting of the bling their success has brought them or, like The Gift of Gab in "Rat Race" here, complaining about how tough it is to get established if you're trying to elevate the level of hip-hop discourse. Quite why listeners should be interested in how the Blackalicious member has "signed a deal with a major, haven't made it yet," etc, remains as much a mystery as the genre's other obsession with a supposed golden age of rap, as in the old-skool memoir "Flashback". Especially since, when it comes to giving "props" to black icons, Gab seems reluctant to acknowledge the blatant Sly Stone samples used in "Up". Not all the borrowings employed by producers Jake One and Vitamin D are that obvious, to be fair: a kalimba sample adds a suitably spiritual tone to "Way of the Light", as does the harp glissando that keeps "The Ride of Your Life" buoyant. The space-travel theme of that track, and of others like "Stardust", is an extension of the space-jazz schtick of such as Sun Ra and Parliament. But there's nothing quite as other-worldly as Ra or Clinton here, for all Gab's immodest regard for his own skills.