Posted on February 12, 2015 by

On Tuesday, California tong-twisting hip-hop royalty Blackalicious graced the stage of The Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds.


This, the smallest venue on their UK tour, was one of those special gigs where the crowd were so mesmerised by the talent of Gift of Gab that atmosphere was sedate, engaged and elated. A far cry from the mayhem of the last hip hop gig I attended. No one had time to whip out their phones and watch the gig through screens of Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Instead all eyes were on the stage and all feet were shuffling on the dance floor. Just as Blackalicious have forged their way through ‘alternative’ peaceful rap lyrics, the crowd embodied these same mantras, making it one of the most pleasant gigs I’ve ever attended.


Promoting their upcoming album, Imani, which means ‘faith’ in Swahili, Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel brought with them the Lifesavas, namely Vursatyl and Jumbo. Equally matched with Gift of Gab’s lyrical talent, the duo performed back up rhymes as well as some new tracks of their own. While the Lifesavas were doing their thing on stage, Gift of Gab took a seat next to the decks, nodding along to the music. When it was his turn to go, the two were right there, bouncing energy off him and hyping up the crowd.


But seriously. Those rhymes. Blackalicious (and, to be fair to him, Vursatyl) has found something bespoke that unifies the precision of spoken word poetry with the production values of gangster rap. With more syllables and rhymes than an anthology scattered into each and every verse, their verbal art is a craft, and one that seamlessly translates onto the stage. It didn’t matter that there was no live band or visual distractions, the music itself was enough to keep even those Gen Y attention spans.


Clearly completely humble, after the gig ended the whole team came to the front of the stage to shake everyone’s hands and take some snaps with the crowd.  Vursatyl then came into the crowd and chatted and shook the hands of those who approached him. He had really soft hands.


Catch the other tour dates of Blackalicious here.


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November 2014

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