Built around the tongue-twisting wordplay of MC Gift of Gab and the eclectic, melodic beats of DJ/producer Chief Xcel, Californian duo Blackalicious have been an influential force on the underground hip-hop scene since emerging in the late 1990s with their inventive, philosophical and socially conscious style. Growing up in Los Angeles, Timothy Parker (aka Gift of Gab) fell in love with music after hearing 'Rapper's Delight' by Sugarhill Gang and began having rapping battles with his neighbours at 12-years-old while intensely studying different lyrical techniques. Meeting Xavier Mosley (aka Chief Xcel) in an economics class at high school, the pair started playing local parties together and later joined the Quannum Projects - a collective of young artists which included DJ Shadow and Lyrics Born. Supporting themselves with telemarketing jobs, they spent eight years building up a following and honing their skills before independently releasing debut album 'Nia' in 1999 to wide acclaim. Landing a major label deal with MCA, their follow-up 'Blazing Arrow' made the US top 50 and featured Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha, Questlove from The Roots, soul singer Ben Harper and legendary jazz-poet Gil Scott Heron, while the single 'Make You Feel That Way' became one of the group's signature tracks. Chief Xcel's collection of over 10,000 records and willingness to sample obscure gospel, jazz and funk tracks was key to their distinct progressive hip-hop sound, and Gift of Gab's structured, worldly rhymes drew comparisons to the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. They parted for ten years with Gift of Gab releasing three solo records, but they returned in 2015 with 'Imani Vol. 1' and the announcement that the album will be the first of a three-volume series.

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