ArtsRiot

Rapper Gift of Gab, left, and DJ/producer Chief Xcel of celebrated California hip-hop group Blackalicious perform Tuesday at ArtsRiot in Burlington.

One of the most celebrated duos in hip-hop, rapper Gift of Gab and DJ/producer Chief Xcel of Blackalicious, return to the Burlington area for the first time in four years, kicking off their tour with a Tuesday show at ArtsRiot.

The Oakland and Sacramento-based group is hard at work on a new album, a follow-up to its killer fourth album, 2015’s “Imani, Vol. 1,” which marked the first Blackalicious album since 2005’s “The Craft.” The group hopes to release “Imani, Vol. 2” this fall.

The dynamic duo’s first two albums, “Nia” (1999) and “Blazing Arrow” (2002), are indie hip-hop classics that still sound remarkably fresh and refreshing. And “Imani” is arguably one of the best and most ambitious Blackalicious outings yet, finding “the fabulous ones” revitalized and more inspired than ever.

Delivering deft wordplay with bracing beats and distinctive soundscapes, Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker, 48) and Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley, 46) are unassuming masters of the genre renowned for their positive and deeply personal lyrics, sense of spirituality and diverse musical styles.

“Imani,” which means “faith” in Swahili, is the first of a projected trilogy of albums, and it’s a particularly personal project for Blackalicious. In early 2012, when Blackalicious started working on the album, Gab suffered kidney failure due to Type 1 diabetes and was placed on dialysis.

We caught up with Gab by phone on Tuesday. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Q: What are you up to these days?

A: I’m at home in Oakland. We’re deep, deep, deep in the creative process now for this next Blackalicious project. This is ‘Imani, Vol. 2’ we’re workin’ on right now. I feel like it’s some of our best work. We both feel really good about it.

We’ve done about 60-something songs, and we’re still making songs. We’ve got a lot of great stuff to choose from. That’s why we’re really excited about getting this record done and getting it out.

Q: What have you guys been up to since the last album?

A: I put out a Gift of Gab EP (“Rejoice! Rappers are Rapping Again!”) last year. Xcel’s been working with (R&B singer) Ledisi. We’ve been doing a bunch of different stuff, but we look at Blackalicous as like the mothership. So it’s time to come back to the mothership.

Q: I love the title of your solo EP. Why did you call it that?

A: I went through a long period where I was a little like, hip-hop in the 2000s and the ‘90s was just way doper, and I kind of shut myself out from a lot of the new stuff. And then I realized I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be an outsider. I don’t want to be an old and bitter dude. So I began to really pay attention, and I started to peep some of the styles. And then you got cats like Homeboy Sandman and Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar. And it just feels like lyricism is coming back to the forefront.

To me — and this is just my opinion — it seemed like hip-hop got to a point where lyricism wasn’t important anymore. You know, raw lyrics like when you first heard (Eric B. & Rakim’s) “Follow the Leader,” just the mind trip that took you on. And then when you first heard Nas, like how does he put words together like that? And it just seemed like that was missing, but it feels like it’s back.

Q: I know you had some health issues last year. How’s everything going with that?

A: Everything is good. I still do dialysis three days a week. But I’m living healthier than I’ve ever lived. I don’t eat any processed foods, I don’t really eat fried food. I go to the gym every morning. I’m meditating. I’m living really healthy right now.

Q: When you perform live, is it just you and Xcel or do you bring anyone else?

A: Right now, it’s me, Xcel, Jumbo from the Livesavas and Lateef the Truthspeaker. We have fun up there (laughs). If we didn’t have fun, we wouldn’t do it!

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