Artist: The Gift of GabTitle: 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going UpRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Fat Tony
As a part of the Bay Area independent Hip-Hop scene, Gift of Gab (along with partner Chief Xcel) first made his mark as a member of the groundbreaking group Blackalicious in the early 90s. Along with artists like Latyrx and the innovative collective that came to be known as SoleSides Records, Blackalicious was significantly responsible for helping to bring to prominence that electro-funk-drenched, bugged out brand of hyper Hip-Hop that the Northern Cali underground scene has become famous for.
Now Gab is back with his first solo album: 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, and, for the most part, he sticks with the same formula of psychedelic wordplay and soulful, sing-along melodies. Rocketships is full of smooth grooves, mellow tones and pleasant vibes, and neatly fills that quiet little niche of laid-back hip-hop. Songs like Ride On and Flashback are nice bits of reminiscence of happier, simpler times. Lyrically Gab can cover a lot of ground; often going from the trials of the every day life to some real abstract stuff and back again, all within the same song. His subject matter is never the standard fare of the typical hip-hop climate, and sometimes delves into a real personal side of his life (hear In a Minute Doe). Way of the Light (which features Vursatyl of Lifesavas) is probably the most commercially accessible track on the LP, and it fuses a very Ashanti-like melody with Gabs Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See flow, while adding a gospel-ish chorus. The result almost sounds more like a church hymn than a rap song. The few times that Gab really comes alive and just brings it are definitely the high points of the album. Just Because (which is a bonus cut and the B-side for the lead single The Writz) is an aggressive and hungry declaration of just what inspires and motivates the MC. Gabs cadence is gruff fire at break-neck speed, and he just keeps coming until you start to wonder how he can breathe. Evolution is a curious track that juxtaposes Gabs rapid fire, whiplash delivery with a slower, head-nod-type track and works solely because Gab wills it to work with his stream of consciousness poetry. With a very minimal amount of guestspots (only two, and both are from Vursatyl) Gab is left to his own design to shoulder the weight of the album. And while he should be applauded for bringing a different sound and perspective to the game, the tracks are too scattered in their styles to make for a cohesive album of material.
At its best, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up shows what can come from an artist who is not afraid to expand his musical vocabulary outside of traditional Hip-Hop parameters. Gabs flow and presence are equally unique, and when he blends these aspects of himself with his expansive creativity he is at his best. Unfortunately, due to an overwhelming amount of uninspired beats and barely adequate tracks, this album tends to lag and, at times, become boring. What is lacking are the deep, organic grooves and ass-shaking, rubber band funk that is only hinted at in tracks like Real MCs. As a result, there is no real energy to the record, and while it is an interesting record at times, ultimately it leaves the listener wanting for Blackalicious to reunite.