Gift of Gab’s passing was both unfortunate and unexpected. As one half of the underground duo Blackalicious, the hip-hop community lost one its most gifted technical emcees last summer to causes related to kidney disease. It’s said that the lives of musicians are short. Well, in a business where drugs and sex are easy to come by, and a lack of health insurance to boot, it’s no wonder. While Gift of Gab enjoyed a collaborative career (having released albums as part of Quannum MCs, The Mighty Underdogs, and the aforementioned Blackalicious), his solo career was often overlooked. From 2004 to 2012, he released three solo projects leading to this posthumous release, “Finding Inspiration Somehow”. Part imaginative rapper who loves emceeing and part conscious rapper, Gift of Gab proves with his final solo release why he was one of the most skilled on the mic.
Mostly produced by Nick Andre, the album’s beats are awfully varied. The 11-second album intro notwithstanding, the album starts off with the reggae-inspired “Slaughtah Dem (Godly)” featuring Caribbean crooner Winstorm. Right off the breaks, Gift of Gab delivers his verbal gymnastics with a slightly mush-mouthed flow. The next track, “Going Farther”, has Gift of Gab doing exactly that as he rhymes with a faster delivery over the thumping boom-bap production courtesy of Jumbo and Curtis Maxwell. He gets topical on the album too, with concepts and with historical events. The subjects of love, friendship, and their limits are rapped about on “You Gon’ Make It In The End” (featuring Vursatyl and Lateef the Truthspeaker). On “The Gentrification Song (remix)”, I get the impression that this is the only track that coincides with the album cover, which depicts urban decay. Over G. Koop’s R&B-flavored beat, Gift of Gab examines the cons of gentrifying neighborhoods, from moving out the poor to bringing in hipsters:
He returns to destroying mics on the synth-&-bass heavy “Vice Grip”, while the next track takes its cue from the synth production and runs further with it. Headonic makes use danceable synthesizer music notes to provide a canvas for Gift of Gab’s imagination, which envisions “The World Without Money”, in which salaries wouldn’t define others among other things. “Alchemy” may be the first track on here that had me nodding my head even with Gift’s prophetic lyrics about having kidney failure. “Enter the Dragon” has Gift of Gab employing the tongue-twisting back-to-back rhymes that he was known for over a particularly menacing production laced by Nick Andre.
As for the final tracks on the album, some have a softer sound that makes them accessible for non-rap audiences. Take the track “Breathe In”, which has no rapping, but rather upbeat singing and acoustic guitar chords to convey a message of being positive and dispelling negativity. The album closer, “Back to the Light”, has Gift rapping sans his trademark fast-hitting rhymes and actually provides the listener with verses they can keep up with, it also features a verse from Justin Brave. The urban funk on “The Idea of America” is a nice touch, looking at the history of America and how the mere notion of the country is more appealing than the reality. “A Weekend in Venice” is both positive and wistful all at once. Like a memory one wishes to relive, Gift of Gab comes in late in the song to spin a yarn about a woman he met just once, but had such an effect on him that can never forget it or duplicate it:
On the whole, “Finding Inspiration Somehow” is an enjoyable album. Although, it’s a shame that Gift of Gab never got to see the fruits of his labor released, this album is as much a feather in his cap as his previous solo outings. Though few tracks are less than stellar, they’re not entirely skippable either. Lastly, in naming his fourth album “Finding Inspiration Somehow”, he’s sending a different but equally positive message: “Carpe Diem.”