Blackalicious – “Supreme People”

This listen hit me in the gut around 10:40 this morning. I was in my cubicle at work, half-asleep, stomach rumbling, thoughts lost in the fog and a long, long day stretching out before me. That’s when I heard this:

“Kings and queens working 9-to-5s, making nothing and searching for a deeper purpose in life…”

A quotable on “Supreme People” by Blackalicious‘s Gift of Gab, and one that got me right between the armor.  Although this listen predates the recession by a few years, it feels like Gift of Gab is speaking directly to millennials (that’s what they’re calling us, right?) like me who went from supreme to subprime.

But let me back up a minute. Blackalicious is the duo of rapper Gift of Gab and deejay/producer Chief Xcel, notable for their intelligent lyrics, wide breadth of topics, and eclectic production. As an integral part of the Bay Area-based Solesides (now known as Quannum) collective along with other fascinating artists like DJ Shadow and Latyrx (both I’ll be covering sooner or later) Blackalicious was instrumental in furthering Cali’s alternative rap movement, and when I first really started exploring rap they were one group I quickly gravitated towards. Records like 2000’s Nia and 2002’s Blazing Arrow provided a wonderful soundtrack to my late teens and early 20s. Simply inspiring, empowering, and very relatable music. Believe me when I say that I have a special place in my heart for “Make You Feel That Way,” one of their most well-known listens. Their third (and so far latest) effort, 2005’s The Craft is a record which took time to grow on me. A little less dreamy and a lot more frank than previous works, The Craft is swift and Gab takes point with some pointed messages.

Such as “Supreme People.” I said before that Gab seems to be speaking to my generation, and this listen feels more relevant now than when I heard it back on release. Over a beat that rocks harder than damn near anything they’ve done up to that point, Gab speaks with urgency about a hellbound system where everyone’s got nothing and the struggle to get a little something and somewhere in life has us clashing like titans. In that desperate space you’re always a step away from pulling a transgression. Now, that sounds like something a whole bunch of young people in America just went through…and are STILL going through. I know I had some low points in the last few years. Now I’m working and very thankful for what I’ve got, but hearing that line above certainly got me thinking, and keeps me wondering. Talk about an existential body check. It’s quite a listen.

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