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Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #14 Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow

 

Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one album and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 album of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#14 Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow

From 2000's Nia comes the famous funky hook: don't let money change ya… At least for an album, it didn't change Blackalicious. Nia is still considered a cornerstone of hip hop, but Blazing Arrow improved on it in many ways, tossing a fair bit of flourish, major eclecticism and a few interesting collaborations into the ring. It's like Gift of Gab looked up "keeping it real" in the dictionary, and when his picture wasn't next to the definition, he said "what the fuck, wasn't Nia enough?" Then he went and made Blazing Arrow just to rectify the situation.

His trademark delivery is on full display here, frontloaded especially into the first two cuts, where it becomes clear that Gab can rap about hope and good times ("Blazing Arrow") as he can about famine, murder and serious social injustice ("Sky Is Falling"). I still maintain that Gab can keep a single thread going for longer than any other MC around, and his ability to hit something genuinely upbeat and incisively political are – well, that's two things most rappers don't have going for them. Deeper into the album, Gift of Gab runs into some logical collaborations (Jurassic 5 for the freshest jam on the album, "4000 Miles") as well as some unexpected ones (when Gil Scott Heron pays your album a visit, you know you're worth something). There's also a revival of the playfully alliterative "Alphabet Aerobics," this time in the form of a funky chemistry lesson, as well as more jazz and soul influence than we'd previously seen ("Make You Feel That Way," "Aural Pleasure"). Nia's the hip hop album, and Blazing Arrow is it's built out, ambitious brother. It became an instant classic, and it's one of our best of the decade.

- Phillip Taylor-Parker

Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.

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