It seems that if more rappers emulated the MC style of Gift of Gab, then they could stop writing verses about bringing the rap game back to where it started. With an album like The Next Logical Progression, it would be like nothing ever happened past Tupac. Given the current state of affairs, what with your LMFAOs and your Pitbulls, no one would be upset.
With a flow that reminds one of Big Daddy Kane crossbred with Common but is entirely his own, Gift of Gab (real name Timothy Parker) is all about keeping it positive — for the most part. With a crisp, intellectual rap style, Gab has turned out an album that would likely never see radio play but would keep fans of early hip hop happy. It’s what I like to call “Sunday afternoon rap” — the kind of music you put on for waking up late, drinking orange juice and cleaning the house.
Next Logical Progression has two intro tracks, which would make more sense if the entire album followed a stronger artistic theme. As it is, “NLP” and “Introlude” are a little redundant, but it’s a pleasant doubling of efforts.
The true opening salvo is “Rise,” a soul-infused anthem that evokes the earliest version of Kanye West possible, at least in terms of production. It’s a track that namechecks meditation and yoga, which is an immediate clue that Gab is not really into rapping about the things you’re used to hearing about; i.e., racks on or around other racks. He’s a wordsmith: “My fan base is not who I grew up around/I’m touring the world, but my folks are still struggle-bound.” And “Protocol” touches one of my soft spots: girl group-esque harmonies. In a hooky chorus that reminds me of Chiddy Bang‘s “Ray Charles,” this track takes a little classic MC braggadocio and then classes the joint the heck up.
“Everything Is Fine” is an interesting case, where Gab makes a funk statement with support from the parliamentarian himself, George Clinton, but with some wacky results. Then again: It is called funk. With lines like “All your songs belong in the porcelain pond” and “I’m the monk of funk, this is my monastery,” it’s lyrically on point. But when I said ol’ George was assisting, I should have clarified. The Godfather of Funk sounds like Biz Markie having a grand mal seizure while drunk on Franzia, slobbering or moaning or making some type of technically human utterance. It doesn’t necessarily distract from the song, but I would check on George to see if he’s doing alright. Dude’s old.
“Toxic” is my second favorite song by that name, but it’s a great kiss-off to a failed relationship and full of entertaining disses. If you’ve ever wanted to hear the adult characters from Peanuts open up a rap song, “Effed Up” is your jam. The track itself is a series of vignettes about darkly satisfying karmic situations — one of the finer raps about schadenfreude. “So So Much” hits a personally uplifting note, tackling struggle from a religiously inspirational standpoint. It’s sincere without a note of irony.
Gift of Gab sounds familiar, but never unoriginal. The California rapper is quick to bare his soul with deft rhetorical precision and a comfort with classic sounds. Just like Batman, he’s not the rapper Gotham City wants, but he’s the rapper it needs right now.
(11) “So So Much”