Oakland emcee Gift of Gab has had a storied career. Blackalicious was one of hip-hop’s most influential groups of the early 2000s, with a smooth, jazzy neo-soul sound that complemented his erratic flows and multi-syllable rhyme schemes. Gab’s third solo LP, The Next Logical Progression is a statement to heads that in his third decade of releasing music, he is as sharp of an emcee as ever. Gift of Gab recently announced he was suffering from kidney failure, but even in poor health he still manages to release one of the year’s best albums.
The production on NLP, handled by Gift of Gab and G Koop, is phenomenal throughout – a blend of soul, funk, jazz and boom-bap. And Gab hasn’t lost a step on the lyrical tip either as he tackles a more mature approach to songwriting. The Next Logical Progression is a very apt title for this record as there is a lot of “grown man raps” but things never get too heavy, thanks to Gab’s charm. On “Effed Up,” for instance, he voices regret about wishing bad karma wrongdoers, but keeps the track as comedic as it is insightful.
“Rise” is vintage Gift of Gab, with a superb chopped-up piano, head-nodding drums and a singalong hook. The horns on “Market & 8th” give the track a “Make You Feel That Way” vibe, and Gab gets a little conscious as he tells a story about encounters with homeless people. “Everything is Fine” has a magnificent funk vibe and features a dope hook from the godfather of funk himself, George Clinton. NLP is about as consistent as an album can be, but Gab does miss the mark with “Wack but Good People.” On the track, he talks about the awkward situation of being friends with a wack emcee. The beat is solid and the premise is good enough, but when it comes down to the execution (ironically) it falls flat.
I challenge you to find a more fun album than The Next Logical Progression. Gift of Gab may be going through some scary health issues in his life, but he doesn’t bother mentioning it on this record. Instead he focuses on his strengths; making uplifting tracks without a hint of pretention. His passion for rap and great music is palpable and if you can’t nod your head and sing along with this record, I feel sorry for you. NLP is yet another crowning achievement in his long career. I wish him a speedy recovery because there are few rappers who are as fun to listen to has Gift of Gab.