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Gift of Gab, Blackalicious rapper, dies aged 50

Gift of Gab, the alias for Timothy Jerome Parker and the MC for legendary duo Blackalicious, has passed away. He was 50.

Anyone who knows Blackalicious, or Quannum Projects, or Bay Area hip hop, or tongue-twisting rhyme schemes, or just good rap music, knows Gift of Gab. His reputation for ferociously dense, intellectually stimulated, metaphor heavy, and lightning-quick raps kept him at the forefront of the conversation when it came to ‘Best Rapper Alive’. Now we must transition into using his name in the pantheon on ‘Greatest Rappers Ever’.

His style easily stands out because of the sheer stamina and vocal ability it took to recite it. Behind every funny viral video of Daniel Radcliffe reciting ‘Alphabet Aerobics,’ there was a commonly understood notion: this is a really complicated rhyme.

It’s what Gift of Gab specialized in. His stage name actually meant something, and he lived up to it every time he stepped up to a mic.

But it takes more than speed and a thesaurus to make an impact, which Parker knew well. His rhymes weren’t just good for new high scores in Scrabble. They were thoughtful, maximized for impact, weaponized for auditory assault, and clever. He could outpace any MC around him, but Parker didn’t always feel the need. Instead, he knew how to play into a certain beat’s groove, showing off only when appropriate or vitally necessary.

Often it was vitally necessary, considering how fickle and territorial the rap game can be. But Parker seemed to revel in his lack of major stardom or mainstream popularity. Outside of Blackalicious, he was just a normal guy. However, on stage or in a booth, the man could murder a verse as few others could.

Blackalicious put out several essential albums in the hip hop pantheon, but the peak might be 2003’s Blazing Arrow. Featuring tracks like ‘Paragraph President’, ‘Sky Is Falling’, and ‘First in Flight’, plus appearances from Gil Scott-Heron, Ben Harper, and Zack de la Rocha, the album is bursting at the seams and still laser-focused, largely thanks to Gab’s tight flow and ferocious ability to meld politics, passion, and good old fashioned soapbox self-profiteering.

Beyond Blazing Arrow, Blackalicious have LP’s that are all necessary education for any aspiring hip hop head. If you want more, Gab also has three solo albums, four EPs, and a whole slew of guest appearances you can suss through. The best way to mourn him is to appreciate his art.