“We’re older, we’re wiser, we’re more mature,” MC Gift of Gab (nee Timothy Parker) says of Imani, Vol. 1, Blackalicious’ first new album in a decade. “It’s better now, because we’ve grown as people and artists.”
“Each one of these records is a chapter in our lives, and we put our complete heart and soul into it,” agrees Gab’s longtime musical partner, CJ/producer Chief Xcel (aka Xavier Mosley). “We live these records.”
Imani, Vol. 1 lives up to the beloved California-bred duo’s hard-won reputation as one of hip-hop’s most progressive, forward-thinking creative forces. Acclaimed for the sublime combination of Gab’s verbal dexterity and lyrical eloquence, and X’s bracing beats and distinctive soundscapes, Blackalicious has earned widespread respect, both inside and outside of the hip-hop community, for the wildly inventive, personally charged innovations of its first three albums, 1999’s Nia, 2002’s Blazing Arrow and 2005’s The Craft.
Three years in the making, Imani, Vol. 1—the first of a projected trilogy to be released over the course of two years—is perhaps Blackalicious’ most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, maintaining the spirituality, introspection and positivity that are the twosome’s trademarks, while making it clear that their musical vision and creative drive remain as strong as ever.
Imani—whose title is the Swahili word for “faith”—is a particularly personal project for Blackalicious, with its title reflecting the personal trials that helped to inspire the words and music.
“Faith has been a big word in both of our lives in the last couple of years,” Gift of Gab affirms. “We both dealt with some personal situations that really required faith and forced us to think about a lot of things. Most of our albums are about where we are at that point in our lives, and that’s definitely true on this one.”
“Our audience seems to be people who see music and art as essential parts of life, and not just disposable accessories,” Chief Xcel concludes. “That’s who we make music for—people who need music in their life. I’m one of those people. Imani is Swahili for faith, and that’s really where we’re at at this juncture. We’re so rooted in our purpose that we don’t have to second-guess, we just know. There’s no fear of the unknown, there’s just the fire to move forward and get to wherever the journey takes us.”