Some groups release critically acclaimed albums and then fall off. Underground veterans Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab prove that they are not one of those groups. After several albums and EPs that garnered huge love from the underground, the duo is back with “The Craft.” Once again they are bringing the consistency and continue to surprise audiences with their versatility. Ever since the Melodica EP Blackalicious has shown that innovative rhymes and beats are their specialty and they ain’t stopping.

Lyrically, Gab has always been on point. Some fans were skeptical of his solo effort, (“Fourth Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up”), but he still rocked various creative flows and rhyme patterns that he’s become known for. Here, Gab doesn’t hold back at all. On “World of Vibration,” Gift flawlessly swims through the beat with multi-syllable rhyme schemes and a flair with the flow. He also demonstrates versatility going from braggadocios rhymes to meditative poems that uplift. Some great examples of this can be heard on “Supreme People,” “Black Diamonds and Pearls,” and “The Fall and Rise of Elliot Brown.” Each of these tracks contains some of the most powerful rhymes the he’s ever provided. What makes this incredible is that Gab doesn’t break for a second. On the latter song for instance, his flow varies throughout, matching the beat entirely, all while displaying emotion , an exceptional ability with words and proving he can be as vivid a story teller as anyone in the game.

Still, Gab’s rhymes are only half of the story here. Don’t get it mistaken. This is a duo and without Xcel the album lacks musical depth. Much like he’s done in the past, Chief Xcel continues to bring the heat behind the boards. Similar to his partner Gab, Xcel also shows a lot of versatility. Sonically, this album is lush and explosive with every mood it manages to capture. While he provides some ill upbeat tempos, as shown ingeniously in “Powers” and “Side to Side,” he is not one dimensional. Just as well, X adds a perfect mellow feel to “The Craft” and “My Pen and Pad.” Without Xcel, the aforementioned touching songs like “Black Diamonds and Pearls” would not be as moving. From the addition of some funk on the George Clinton assisted “Lotus Flower” to the overall soulful feel of album, Xcel proves he’s a producer to be sought after.

Many groups come and fade out. Blackalicious is here to stay. Gab’s rhymes are beyond dope on and Chief excels in making some of the most creative beats out. And isn’t that what Hip-Hop’s about? Dope lyrics and dope beats. From the start, fans may be wary and think this cannot match past efforts like “Nia” or “Blazing Arrow.” That ain’t the point here. Blackalicious has always been about evolving and growing. On “The Craft,” they do just that. From the different moods and directions to the great guest appearances, (including Floetry and Pigeon John) “The Craft” is an exceptional album worth checking out. If nothing else, it should uplift your Hip-Hop loving soul.