Review: Gift of Gab – Next Logical Progression
Published on September 11th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Gift of Gab’s third solo LP continues in a similarly laid-back and perspective-bound vein to its predecessors, 2004’a 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up and 2009’s Escape 2 Mars, and as he explained to Rocksucker when we spoke to him recently it is the first project he had an input to musically as well as lyrically.
Having hit such great heights with Chief Xcel as Blackalicious – 1999’s Nia and 2002’s Blazing Arrow are two of this writer’s most cherished albums, while 2005’s The Craft is only marginally less perfect – Gab’s whirlwind flows tend to be rested on his solo output, like a sport team saving their key players for a big match. Next Logical Progression opener “NLP”, however, is primo Gab, his inflection rising skywards as he gets into full flow in that utterly peerless way of his. G. Koop’s beats aren’t as multi-faceted as Xcel’s, but they’re sufficiently funky and melodic to make for apt accompaniment to Gab’s thoughtful, inviting flow.
Oh, and in “Elevate to the heavens just by making rhymes to beats” he, unwittingly or otherwise, sums up the afore-described rapture his most energised and/or creative deliveries can conjure. Next Logical Progression may not boast an “Alphabet Aerobics” or “Chemical Calisthenics” but, then, why should it? There’s enough loveliness to cover for the relative lack of adventure, which in any case mightn’t have been appropriate for such pensive rhymes as “My fan base is not what I grew up around / I’m touring the world but my folks are still struggle-bound / The more I learn the more I learn I don’t know nothing” on the snugly Jackson 5-y “Rise”, featuring contributions from Raashan Ahmas and Zumbi.
Gab’s as breathless and tight as ever on “Protocol” – it can still be hard to keep up with what he’s saying but his voice is endlessly listenable regardless – and the Samantha Kravitz-sung chorus of “MCs come and MCs go / Street cred big but they can’t flow / Please respect my protocol / One by one I’ll drop them all / Just call me a conscious fool / Who rhymes circles all round you / Please respect my protocol / One by one I’ll kill you all” provides a welcomely confrontational counter to the self-examination present elsewhere.
His legendariness George Clinton chips in with a marvelously barmy chorus on “Everything is Fine”, notable also for a brilliantly enunciated Gab flow that recalls Blazing Arrow cut “Green Light: Now Begin”, his hat-tipping reference to himself as “the godson of the funk”, and the verses handled with characteristic flair by fellow Quannum-ites Latyrx; the Martin Luther-featuring “Toxic” then sees Gab asking “Why would I want to be with a woman who makes me crazy? / Maybe because I’m crazy” over a quickstepping beat and air of the frantic which amount to something akin to a coked-up version of The Craft‘s “Powers”, before the strange yet thoroughly entertaining “Wack but Good People” oresents Gab in a rapping discourse with a menacing, pitch-lowered voice that sounds a bit like the bad guy from The Mask when he puts on the mask. Throw in fluttery flute samples and a strutting beat…well, you’ve sealed yourself a rather unexpected deal there, mister.
The Jurassic 5-esque “Effed Up” – undue caution with the censoring perhaps given that the word ‘fuck’ has already featured on the album a few times by this point – sends a delightful mute trumpet to make tea and sympathy with the chorus “It’s effed up when a girl treats you bad / And later on you find out that she’s doing bad / And deep down inside that makes you feel glad / It’s effed up, and I don’t wanna be like that”. Kudos too for the “woah…woah…woah…” phrased to sound like something spinning to a halt.
On “Market & 8th” Gab contemplates all the different walks of life all within one block in San Francisco, shining a light on the local poverty without surrendering the musical feelgood factor, and it’s paired with another stroll through Gab’s conscience in the form of the Ms. K-featuring “Dream Warrior”. By the time “So So Much” takes in such musings as “It’s been a hell of a ride / I wouldn’t change anything if I could”, “Everybody got a purpose / God is the employer, we’re all just workers” and “Every day’s a blessing / Every day’s a lesson”, you suspect that Gab’s recent health issues have cultivated a perspective on life that would unavoidably dictate proceedings on this album. Next Logical Progression is a document of a great rapper at a meaningful time in his life, one which holds plenty of joy for those who don’t harbour unrealistic expectations of a 70-minute magnum opus a la Blazing Arrow.
Nia-ish closer “Beyond Logic” issues a string of shout-outs that begins with G. Koop and extends to the whole world, the whole universe and then the whole multiverse. Next Logical Progression is certainly accessible but it’s hard to imagine Gift of Gab’s unique voice ever crossing into the mainstream as long as the masses continue to slaver for base-level rapping and lowest-common-denominator lyrical content. Treasure this guy.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!