1. It took a while for Backstage Bar & Billiards to fill up Sunday night, but by the time headlining Blackalicious took the stage the crowd had grown to a respectable size. Sadly, latecomers missed solid opening sets from locals Ekoh and Rhyme N Rhythm, including a highlight-worthy medley tribute to Notorious B.I.G. on the anniversary of his death, from RNR.
2. Twenty years after debuting with EP Melodica, Blackalicious opened their Vegas set with the tongue-twisting “Alphabet Aerobics,” as if to immediately erase doubts about whether the West Coast rap duo still has it.
3. Descriptors that come to mind while watching Blackalicious perform: lyrically dense, raw, bombastic, elaborate, conscious, bump. I’m halfway to a Blacka spit with these words … if I could only get them to rhyme.
4. Blackalicious previewed some tracks off long-awaited upcoming album Imani (due in June), including the a-capella track “Blacka,” as in “Blacka than a ….” The pair’s new jams continue its sonic tradition of placing astute and abundant lyrics over old-school grooves.
5. Lyricist Gift of Gab hardly moves onstage, like a stoic-stoner-professor expounding life theses while standing strong amid the hurricane of Chief Xcel’s beats raging around him. Once they start, it’s hard to tear your eyes away. Top to bottom, it was one of the best hip-hop shows I’ve seen in years.