Blackalicious, Blazing Arrow

Blackalicious Blazing Arrow

Blazing Arrow is 74 minutes and 24 seconds long, has 15 songs, and its vocals, mostly by Gift of Gab, get released at such speed for the most part, you’re shocked the man doesn’t collapse from asphyxiation.  Released in 2002, it was Blackalicious’s only moment that approached commercial success and was modestly successful critically as well, but its astonishment crept up on me over the years.  This is the exact type of album that an age of MP3’s delays – at 74 minutes, it’s so long it’s hard to play it from start to finish, over and over again, which is what it needs.  Even worse – it’s best from beginning to end while you’re feeling thrilled, inspired, elated, stoned, or, at the very least, ready to absorb music full of excitement and inspiration, which, if truly that is what I am feeling at any given moment, makes it difficult to get through a 74 minute album.  Get to know the songs though – arriving slyly with a Harry Nilsson song in “Blazing Arrow,” the album turns into a party before “First In Flight” (with great vocals by Gil Scott Heron) turns it into a thrill of creativity and excitement.  From there, each song isn’t just original, each is an explosion of form and ability, and melts like candlewax from song to song – as “Sky Is Falling” juts with paranoia and anger, “Green Light: Now Begin” complements with hope and calmness, rapped at a furious speed that never dips into caricature or rhyme-scheme-necessitating nonsense.  Each song has the potential to thrill, titillate, and inspire, but for me each time I reach “Make You Feel That Way,” it’s something more.  If I’m lucky enough to hear the record from beginning to end, “Make You Feel That Way” with its seductive trumpet and sexy come-ons feels like a statement of purpose for all hip-hop – for all music.  It ushers in a side full of experiments and wild digressions in which each works – even a 3-part, nine-minute freak out called “Release.”  The record concludes with “Day One,” a sunset r/b song of beauty and perfection and ease.  In its soaring bridge that repeats the line “Get your soul back” like an incantation, you’re so moved and excited, you do just that.

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