Blackalicious Rapper Gift Of Gab Dead At 50
Timothy Parker, the Bay Area rapper better known as the Gift Of Gab, has died. Both as a solo artist and as half of the duo Blackalicious, Gab was a staple of the underground rap community from the mid-’90s on, and he he was famous for his casually athletic approach. Rolling Stone reports that Gab died of natural causes; he’d recently suffered from kidney disease, and he received a kidney transplant in January of 2020. Gab was 50.
A native of Sacramento, the Gift Of Gab met DJ Xavier “Chief Xcel” Mosley in high school. The two of them formed Blackalicious when they were students at the University Of California Davis in the early ’90s. Blackalicious teamed up with friends like DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, and Lateef The Truthspeaker to form a collective called Solesides, which evolved into Quannum Projects. In 1994, Blackalicious released their debut single “Swan Lake” on the Solesides label, and they followed it the next year with their EP Melodica.
In 1999, Blackalicious released the song “Alphabet Aerobics,” on which the Gift Of Gab raps his way through the entire alphabet at increasing speed. It’s the sort of track that goes viral once every few years, especially when Daniel Radcliffe raps it. The duo released their debut album Nia that same year, and the followed it three years later with Blazing Arrow, which featured collaborations with people like Gil Scott-Heron and Zack De La Rocha. In 2004, Gab released his solo debut 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up.
For years, both solo and with Blackalicious, Gab was a tireless advocate for his scene and for his utopian view of rap music. Blackalicious toured hard, and they put on an electrifying live show. (Personally, I have extremely fond memories of seeing Blackalicious open for Del Tha Funkee Homosapien at SOB’s in the summer of 2000.) Blackalicious kept putting out music up until 2015’s Imani Vol. 1, and they kept playing shows until last year. Gab could rap, and he could do it with warmth and personality. Below, read some tributes from Gab’s peers and check out some of his music.