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Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow

Like whoa. West Coast funkanauts Chief Xcel (heís the DJ) and The Gift Of Gab (heís the rapper) have been in the game as Blackalicious for nearly a decade, cutting their teeth alongside DJ Shadow in the SoleSides Crew. Blazing Arrow, their second full-length album, finds them at the vanguard of the same alternative hip hop pack that The Roots and Jurassic 5 both represent for. "Make You Feel That Way" blooms with enough De La-worthy positive daisy age energy to earn the rank of "feel-good song of the year." Hip hop paterfamilias Gil Scott-Heron, barely heard from since his last album eight years ago, lends his voice to another standout track, "First In Flight." And there are appearances by Lyrics Born, Ben Harper, Zack from Rage Against The Machine, and Harry Nilsson (the sampled "Me And My Arrow" on the title track), but unlike many a 2002 hip hop album, this one is not all about the "featured artists" and guests. If the beats and tempos here are more laid back than Outkastís, the politics are just as smart and strident, and like that Philly duo, this twosome always keeps things fun. The funky sonic mindfuck of the year.