Blackalicious needed two decades to establish themselves as one of underground hip hop’s most progressive, impressive and beloved groups. But it took Harry Potter to make them famous.
On a late 2014 edition The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Daniel Radcliffe showed off his then unknown rapping skills by furiously articulating his way through Blackalicious’ absurdly tongue-twisting “Alphabet Acrobatics.” The segment generated close to 50 million views, a healthy number of Potter quips (“You’re a rapper, Harry!”), and best of all, gave many a first exposure to the hyper-talented Bay Area outfit.
Now after a decade-long dormancy, rapper Gift of Gab and Producer Chief Xcel are mounting a comeback, releasing their first album since 2005, Imani Vol. 1, and mounting a West Coast tour that will take the duo to WOW Hall.
Due to Potter magic or not, Blackalicious couldn’t have timed it better. During the duo’s classic late-’90s to early-’00s run, they provided a needed refuge from the Ja Rule/Nelly-dominated rap world thanks to Xcel’s soulful production touch and Gab’s dexterous wordplay (“Amazing phase your days your hazy ways my Blazing Arrow/ The rays that range from Asia way to Rio de Janeiro” is practically a Fabergé egg of internal rhyme.).
Now hip hop has largely caught up, with current stars like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Danny Brown appointing themselves “the greatest” based on technical skills alone. If “On Fire Tonight,” Imani Vol. 1’s recently released lead single, is a reliable harbinger of what Blackalicious have in store for its comeback, we might need to prepare for a changing of the guard.
Lateef the Truthspeaker and Lifesavas join Blackalicious 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 24, at WOW Hall; $17 adv., $20 door.