HipHopDX recently spoke to Blackalicious and the Mighty Underdogs emcee Gift of Gab [click to read]. Five years since he released 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up [click to read], Gab has returned to the studio to record his sophomore solo album Escape 2 Mars, coming November 3 on Quannum Projects/Cornerstone RAS. Gab discussed how his latest was partly inspired by the recent concern over global warming. Yet Gab insists that the album is not an environmentally inclined polemical; rather, Escape 2 Mars captures Gab’s personal reaction to the information surrounding the issue.
“The name of the album is…Escape2 Mars, and a lot of the title song has to do with global warming,” explained the writer of "Alphabet Aerobics." “There’s all of the talk about the Mayan calendar and 2012, so I’ve been reading about it a little bit. Like I’ve said, I’m not trying to say that I’m in a position to preach or say what it is or isn’t, it’s just interesting information. A lot of it was inspired by that.”
While the environment is not the most talked about topics in Hip Hop, Gab feels that it is not an issue which rappers intentionally avoid. The Blackalicious front-man says that global warming has yet to manifest itself to the extent where it will significantly affect people.
“I wouldn’t say [there’s] a stigma [to talking about the environment],” he said. “I wouldn’t say people are consciously choosing not to talk about it…who knows what this whole global warming thing is. Escape [2 Mars] was actually inspired by a lot of information that I’ve been given about global warming. I just felt like ‘Well damn, this is some great shit that affects all of us,’ and at that time when I wrote the song… so I just expressed what was on my mind. I don’t think people are consciously not talking about it, I just think that it’s not bad enough yet for people to see it directly affecting them.”
Escape 2 Mars also boasts the song “Dreamin.’” The record finds Gab sharing the mic with fellow Californian emcee Del The Funkee Homosapien [click to read] and Rhymesayers heavyweight Brother Ali [click to read]. Gab explained how the first seeds of the collaboration were sewn out of a mutual artistic respect.
“I appreciate both [Del The Funkee Homosapien and Brother Ali] as artists and they’re two people I’ve wanted to work with as artists,” said Gab. “When I was writing the song, it just felt like the type of a song that I would like to have guests on…I heard and I was like ‘Del would sound dope on this,’ and I had been talking to Brother Ali about some other stuff, and I was like ‘Well damn, let me just give him a call and see if he’d be dope on this, too,’ and they both wrecked it.”
Escape 2 Mars also finds Gab experimenting with a greater musical palette. In a departure from the heavy bass grooves and soulful sampling of 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, some of the production on Escape 2 Mars will have an electronica-inspired sound. Gab says that after touring with electronica artist Bassnectar first turned him on to this new sound and helped him further realize how the schism between different musical genres has diminished over time.
“There are definitely songs on the album that have more of an electronic feel,” he explained. “A few months ago, I went on the road with Bassnectar. I had never really been into…the electronic music scene and that whole genre…I don’t think I got it at first. But when I on these tours with Bassnectar, I noticed that a lot of the people that were in the audience were Quannum [Projects] fans [and] were gift of Gab fans…I started to really peep that, like ‘Wow, this is kind of like the new Hip Hop,’ not in that it sounds like Hip Hop, but it this whole thing is underground. It hasn’t been commercialized yet. It hasn’t blown up to that proportion yet. It’s just a huge sub-culture…and I began to listen to more of the music and feel…the styles that would fit with what I could do with [my lyrics]. As a rapper, I want to always stay unpredictable.”
He later added, “I definitely see more people that would’ve just listened to [one type of music] back in the day listening to Hip Hop or other types of music. I definitely know that people who would listen to just Hip Hop and Soul back in the day are interested in listening to Rock music. I myself had to grow and be open because there was a point where I would only listen to a certain kind of music and I wouldn’t listen to other kinds of music because I felt like other kinds of music were for other cultures to relate to…as I got older and I started to really get up on more rock and more of these great records, it became apparent that wow, music is music and if you limit yourself, especially if you’re an artist…you might miss out on some brilliant pieces of work.“