(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Recording review - The Gift of Gab, The Next Logical Progression (2012)

Positivity and tight flow carry forward in Gab's progression

The Gift of Gab was in the midst of serious health issues in the weeks before The Next Logical Progression dropped. Characteristically, his press release focused more on the blessings in his life and the message that people shouldn't take their health for granted. Working with Blackalicious, the Quannum Collective, Mighty Underdogs, and solo, the Gift of Gab has built a strong reputation for a level-headed attitude steeped in positivity.

Sonically, The Next Logical Progression is centered on the Gift of Gab's old school, classic hip hop style. The grooves are mostly soul and R&B oriented, although this time, Gab took more responsibility for the music. Working with producer G Koop, he brought melody ideas in for Koop to use in building the tracks. The change ups are interesting, from the scratched up doo-wop roots of Protocol to the Fishbone influenced funk of Everything is Fine. Koop's production emphasizes a scratchy, lo-fi sensibility that woks well with Gab's straightforward delivery.

Straightforward, sure, but the Gift of Gab's flow is smooth as he turns up some tasty rhymes and rhythms. Here's a brief series from Rise:
They say that substance is a thing of the past in rap
And somebody hollered out, "It's even a handicap"
I wanna open up eyes, but I find
That I talk more than I walk
So it's sorta like the blind leading the blind.
This is my favorite song on the album. Gab lays out some thoughtful, personal lyrics. Fitting in with one of the big themes of The Next Logical Progression, he's trying to figure out his place and keep it real.

Raashan Ahmad and Zumbi (Zion I) sit in on this track, too, and Ahmad's verse is particularly solid:
Said I'm a weirdo, underground, conscious and crazy
Can I scream "God" and at the same time, "Pay me"?
Would your head nod if I talk about ladies
And how I want to do 'em? Is the whole song ruined?
I'm doin' all my best, playin' on life's court
Can I study Rumi and still quote Too Short?
I'm just tryin' to find balance, do the best that I can
But I always backslide because I'm only a man
Trying to be that change, but things don't change, so
Trying to change course but I'm stuck in the same flow
The backing track hits a solid Stevie Wonder vibe. Koop layers a thin piano line and some lo-fi horns over a heavy beat to create a fairly rich sound.

The Next Logical Progression tries to find its balance between attitude and philosophy, but the Gift of Gab is much more comfortable laying out his values than posturing. That makes tracks like Dream Warrior, which advocates dreams over dollars, and Rise stand out. By comparison, tunes like Toxic don't quite connect, despite the Kinks rock foundation.

The aforementioned Everything is Fine is the one exception. The attitude and flow fit well together, making this a high point on the album. The electro-funk chorus features some help from funk-father George Clinton and Latryx (Lateef the Truthspeaker and Lyrics Born) join Gab to fill out the track with a taste of braggadocio:
You can't be serious,
I'm a top tier lyricist
Tip top of the pyramid,
Y'all down with the villages
Don't sass your superiors
Shit runs downhill
I'm highly decorated
Y'all decorate interiors
The Next Logical Progression is a little shorter than I'd like (just over 38 minutes), but the Gift of Gab succeeds in giving us a sense of where his head is: open-minded, optimistic, and looking for the next step in his artistic growth.

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