Blackalicious rapper Gift of Gab dies at 50
Timothy J Parker, AKA Gift of Gab, one half of the American rap duo Blackalicious and known for his acrobatic flow and dexterous wordplay, has died at the age of 50.
Parker, perhaps best known for his uninterrupted rap performance on Blackalicious’s Alphabet Aerobics, “peacefully departed this earth to be with our ancestors” on 18 June, the Bay Area hip-hop collective Quannum Projects announced on Friday.
A representative for Blackalicious told Rolling Stone that Parker had died of natural causes. The rapper had endured numerous health problems over the years, undergoing dialysis until a kidney transplant in January 2020.
“Our brother was an MC’s MC who dedicated his life to his craft. One of the greatest to ever do it,” Parker’s longtime friend and Blackalicious bandmate Xavier “Chief Xcel” Mosley said in a statement. “He’s the most prolific person I’ve ever known.”
Mosley met Parker in high school in Sacramento, California, where Parker was born on 7 October 1971. The two formed Blackalicious while Mosley attended the nearby University of California Davis, where they joined forces with their fellow Davis-area artists DJ Shadow and Lyrics Born.
The duo released several EPs in the 90s before their acclaimed first studio album, Nia, in 1999. Gift of Gab’s acrobatic artistry was most famously on display in Alphabet Aerobics, from 1999’s A2G EP, in which the first letter of each verse begins with a sequential version of the alphabet.
Blackalicious released three more albums – Blazing Arrow (2002), The Craft (2005), and Imani Vol 1 (2015) – and toured as recently as pre-pandemic 2020. Parker also released several solo projects, including The Next Logical Progression (2012) and LPs with Quannum MCs and the Mighty Underdogs, another Bay Area collective.
According to Rolling Stone, at the time of his death, Parker held over 100 unreleased tracks for future Blackalicious releases.
In a statement posted to Twitter, DJ Shadow remembered the first time he heard Parker rap at an impromptu MC session: “His voice was perfect, his wordplay endlessly inventive,” he wrote, recalling being dumbfounded that the five-minute performance was entirely freestyle, off the top of Parker’s head. “In an industry with so many frauds and followers, Tim Parker was more than just original; he was unique,” he wrote. “And he was, quite simply, the most preternaturally gifted MC I’ve ever worked with.”
“He was all about pushing the boundaries of his art form in the most authentic way possible,” Mosley said in his statement. “He truly believed in the healing power of music. He viewed himself as a vessel used by a higher power whose purpose was to give positive contributions to humanity through Rhyme.”