Normally that type of earnest optimism rubs me the wrong way--I'm pretty sure I heard at least a couple of limitations on Vanessa Carlton's record--but I haven't heard a hip-hop record that I like more this year than Blazing Arrow, Blackalicious' new one. Gab mentioned singing on hip-hop records because I'd asked him if he and Chief Xcel, his DJ-producer partner, ever felt alienated from the rap underground because of how musical their records are, how freely they pull from soul and R&B idioms and how contemporary their records sound in contrast to the old-school revivalism that suffocates a lot of indie hip-hop. He was nice about it, but I felt like he was trying to say yes.
Jurassic 5, who doesn't play here with Blackalicious but might hang out with the group if their schedules permit, is less opposed to that revivalism, which is too bad, since Quality Control, its 2000 full-length debut, could have been way more than an enjoyable way to spend an hour. (And they have a new one, Power in Numbers, coming October 8.) I've never ridden around with them in a rented town car, though, so perhaps they should speak for themselves.