Gift

(Photo courtesy of Quannum Projects).

Unlike those who have claimed to have paid their dues in hip-hop, Timothy Parker, more commonly known as rapper Gift of Gab, has done so since his days in hip-hop duo Blackalicious. His impenetrable rhyming technique contains a combination of witty wordplay, verbal dexterity and unabashed confidence. The rapper has only gotten better with age in his latest album, The Next Logical Progression.

As soon as album opener “NLP” begins, the listener is struck with an onslaught of lyrical witticisms. He reaffirms his position of underground hip-hop supremacy, while effortlessly backing sub-par rappers into a corner in under a minute. The production is just as lively as the vocalist it backs; it punches with jubilant, celebratory trumpet and marching drums.

“Market & 8th” showcases Parker’s gift for street storytelling. “Ten meters up I see a brawl/two dope fiends going hard for a stray dollar bill,” Parker raps. The imagery is evocative throughout the song, as each San Francisco intersection shelters the pain, poverty and pessimism of the homeless, the drug-addicted and everyone in between.

Parker is about substance, a word that is commonly associated with “back in the day” hip-hop. Similar to hip-hop groups A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and The Roots, Parker prefers a whole-hearted narrative over luxurious lifestyle rhymes.

He speaks of challenges, failed relationships and the environment that shaped him into the man he is today with precision and attentiveness. He’s like the wise adult you find on your neighborhood block — filled with knowledge and always ready to reminisce on the old days, but still aware of what is happening in the present.

What makes the album that much more enjoyable is Parker’s unrelenting grasp on his definitive sound. The guy has the charisma and creativity to “sell out” and make an album full of radio-friendly big hits, but he doesn’t. He stays true to his Blackalicious roots, favoring powerful narratives, not club-banging, sing-along hooks.

The Next Logical Progression serves as a reminder of the beauty of melodic, thought-provoking hip-hop. Although many may consider it nostalgic because of its throwback sound, it shows that Parker is in a lane of his own, utilizing the gift of flow that no one can touch.

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Artist uses gift of flow to progress