“If you know what the game is missin’, what you snorin’ fo?” asks Gift of Gab on the title track of his latest project, The Next Logical Progression. The Blackalicious emcee, who checked into the hospital for kidney failure just days before the this project drops, doesn’t find himself short on these types of reflective musings. On “Rise,” he says, “They say that substance is a thing of the past in Rap / And some would holla that it’s even a handicap / I wanna open up eyes but I find / I talk more than I walk so it’s sorta like the blind leading the blind.” Something is troubling this Hip Hop vet as he seeks balance. Fortunately, it doesn’t knock him off of his game one bit.
Don’t take the subject as an indicator of NLP’s tone, however. At times, it’s downright jovial, with “Protocol’s” keys eliciting memories of Motown mixed with a little bit of guitar twang. So while Gab is here to get those brain cells flowing, he’s also aiming to get those feet shuffling. “Everything is Fine” shifts things over to ’80s-style funk-electronica. Appropriately, George Clinton joins as Gab assumes the title of “The Monk of Funk.”
“Toxic” misses its mark a little, as Gab’s robotic, over-enunciating flow ends up feeling a bit cliché over rhythmic claps. However, he sounds much more natural on “Wack But Good People,” as the Cali native illustrates, in painfully accurate fashion, the delusions of grandeur some have when trying to break into the Hip Hop game.
“Market & 8th” slows things down as Gab’s everyman rhymes take the listener through a stroll in the neighborhood: “Went across the block to buy a loaf of bread, a homeless man yelled out / ‘I haven’t had any food all day / Man, I’m down on my luck, can you spare some change?’ / His friends looked up, like as if to say / ‘If you got it like that, throw some my way’ / So I had to keep stepping, put foot to pavement / I really woulda like to help out, but hey” With “Dream Warrior,” the Mighty Underdogs emcee keeps his storytelling cap on as he addresses dreams deferred through a number of narratives.
Overall, The Next Logical Progression is a very tight package, clocking in at under 40 minutes. As always, Gab rhymes deftly and is replete with personality. However, as Hip Hop artists often do these days, the music becomes a little too self-referential. Listeners will find themselves at times wishing Gab would spend more time storytelling like he does on “Effed Up” rather than criticizing other emcees for being reluctant to do the same. Still, Gift of Gab is a craftsman, and achieves goal to provide uplifting music. Even though it’s a short listen, NLP provides plenty of food for thought, flows to admire, and grooves to get down to.