Gift of Gab (the rapping half of Blackalicious) drops dizzying rhymes on Escape 2 Mars, the Bay Area MC’s second solo album. The 11 tracks cover three main themes: travel, futurism, and a mindfulness of our planet. Gab isn’t preachy at all, instead using the solo spotlight to showcase various cadences and subject matter that transcend typical battle raps. Everything here–like his entire songbook pretty much–is delivered with presence and vigor. The production, helmed by Hednodic and DNAEBEATS, uses more effects and keyboards than what you’d usually find Gab on as part of Blackalicious.
For every song, Gab switches his flow, rhyming at light speed (“Rhyme Travel”), sagging his stanzas to match the beat (“Spotlight”), or just shoving multi-syllabic lines into bouncy bars (“Light Years”). Guest spots by Del The Funky Homosapien and Brother Ali on “Dreamin’” don’t add much—especially Del’s hollow verse—but serves to show Gab’s dominance when compared to otherwise good rappers.
The release is far from perfect, mainly real tepid hooks (“El Gifto Magnifico” and “Electric Waterfalls”) and unneeded vocal effects that distract more than enhance. Furthermore, not all the songs are particulalry catchy nor will cats be reciting quotables from the album (not to say it lacks sharp lines, but nothing sticks out). In fact, there isn’t a song on here that has potential for “classic status”.
But the point of Escape is to show Gab’s gift, which (unlike most rap veterans) remains strong and consistent as it’s been since the early 90s. His voice is intact, the energy’s still all there, and laziness in never a factor. If Gab were to write a “Rapping For Dummies”, new MCs better line up.