The Gift of Gab, who died June 18 at the age of 50, was a bona fide Bay Area legend. Underappreciated nationally, he occupied a special place in Bay Area hip-hop: immensely skilled, imaginative, earnest, and filled with stamina.
Gab was a powerhouse on the stage; a thrill to watch. And while we won't get that chance again, he leaves behind a large body of recorded work. Here are some of his more memorable tracks.
"Alphabet Aerobics" (A2G, 1999)
Gab's signature track is a dextrous workout, a mini-marathon of lyricism, and an accelerando run through the alphabet that should be taught in every kindergarten class. It's the Blackalicious song most people know (memorably, Daniel Radcliffe performed it on The Tonight Show), and proved a guaranteed show-stopper in live sets.
"Deception" (Nia, 1999)
Between Puffy's Bad Boy dominance in 1997 and the bling era's onset in 2000, so-called backpack rap reigned as a rebuke to commercial hip-hop. Money and gold chains were out; songs like “Deception” were in, with Gab in full storytelling mode, narrating the rise and fall of a rapper who loses his way among fame and wealth. Gab's advice at the end? “If you're blessed with the talent, utilize it to the fullest, be true to yourself, and stay humble.”