These days its very rare that you will find a group in hip hop in which one of the members has no interest in pursuing a solo career. It is even more so in groups consisting of two members. I can go down the list from the KRS-1's to the Kool G. Rap's, to the Talib Kweli's, just to name a few. It's rare that an artist is able to venture out of their dynamic duo and be able to create material that is nearly as strong as their material from their group. Enter Gift of Gab from the underground legends Blackalicous. After releasing two LP's and two EP's he decides to finally step forth with his solo debut entitled "4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up". I've listened to this album a dozen times, and for the record, I have absolutely no clue what the album title has to do with the material. But right now, its not about the relevance of an album title....its all about the music.
Sad to say, Gift of Gab is nowhere near dropping an album as strong as one his Blackalicous albums. Lyrically, GOG hasn't missed a step, because he is the same artist fans of Blackalicious has grown to love. The problem lies in the production. While I'd only call two tracks on this album bad, half of the album is terribly bland, and not even GOG's lyrics are able to save these tracks. The problem with a bland song is that it leaves no lasting impression on the listener.
All is not lost. This album does have a few solid (but not spectacular) moments. The albums opening track "Ride Of Your Life" is a soulful track that contains harp plucks on the backdrop. GOG comes on this track running, with his complex lyricism, and flawless breath control. The song's biggest problem is that he only gives us one verse, and after that we have to sit through GOG chanting his album title. How creative.
"Flashback" is another solid throwback joint that anyone over the age of 20 can appreciate. GOG spits reflective lyrics such as "Welcome back to a crush on the girl next door/ 5th period in homeroom passing back notes/Welcome back to family bbq's every month/ Sometimes there would be arguments, but it was all love...
The two worst tracks here are 'Rat Race' and 'Moonshine'. "Rat Race" is probably the worst GOG song to date, including the material from his Blackalicous catalogue. The production on this track is just downright painful to listen to, and lyrically GOG just can't redeem it. "Moonshine", while not as bad, the production is boring and it features GOG trying to be a crooner.
Tracks like "Way of Light" and "Stardust" also suffer from bland production. "Stardust" has GOG spitting a crazy flow, however the strong points of the song stop there. There are still a few tracks on this album that I haven't mentioned, but trust me, they are not worthy of being so. I'm a huge Blackalicious fan, and lyrically, you will never hear me take anything away from GOG because I think his flow is crazy, and when given the right production (i.e. Chief XL), he is capable of creating some truly memorable songs. As I stated earlier, the biggest problem is the mediocrity of the production. Die hard Blackalicious fans will be satisfied for the most part, but I doubt any of them will be longing for a sophomore LP as opposed to a new Blackalicious album. The album's production is handled by two virtual unknowns named Vitamin D and Jake One. If they were trying to use GOG to make a name for themselves, they didn't accomplish their mission. They barely prove that they are able to make a solid track and even more so, nothing memorable.
I'd be lying if I said I was looking forward to another solo by GOG, especially if he continues to select the same producers. I believe that the beauty of using one or two producers to handle an entire album is an opportunity to show off their diversity as a producer, and that wasn't shown here. If anything was made obvious, it was their inabilities. While I cant knock Gift of Gab the artist, his choice of production is what makes the album suffer. I know the next Blackalicious album will be crazy, but after hearing this album plagued with mediocre production, esoteric song titles, and lack of musical direction, I don't know what to expect from GOG as a solo artist.