By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — One of the most forward-thinking hip-hop collectives to ever emerge from Northern California, Quannum MCs featuring Blackalicious rapper Gift of Gab and producer Chief Xcel with the talented Latyrx tandem of Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker reunited onstage for only the second time in a dozen years at the Fillmore Wednesday.
Along with groundbreaking turntable talent DJ Shadow, hip-hop duo Blackalicous made up of rapper Gift of Gab and producer Chief Xcel and talentedg MC/producer Lyrics Born first surfaced in the early 1990s from the unlikely location of Davis, California.
The future members of what would become known as the SoleSides crew met at KDVS, the 5000-watt college radio station at the Davis campus of the University of California. Drawn to the hip-hop show by DJ Zen (better known later as hip-hop journalist and author Jeff Chang), the MCs and producers got over their initial feelings of competitiveness to form the SoleSides collective in 1992, establishing the label of the same name.
The imprint issued a number of groundbreaking singles by Shadow and Lyrics Born before putting the debut recorded effort by Blackalicious in 1994. Featuring Gab’s dauntingly complex rhymes over gritty, cinematic beats courtesy of Xcel and Shadow, the Melodica EP earned global recognition, establishing the group and the SoleSides crew as major players on the global hip-hop scene.
DJ Shadow would be the next player from the group to make the leap to worldwide notoriety. While he had become an underground sensation with his series of 12″ records that showcased his sampling ear and prowess on the turntables, it was Shadow’s production tour de force Entroducing… in 1996 that was hailed as one of the cornerstone albums of cinematic, instrumental hip-hop that would influence trip-hop artists and movie soundtracks for the rest of the decade. Shadow also lent his production talents to the debut Latyrx recording The Album that also broke serious new ground with it’s expansive beats and the tongue-twisting delivery of Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker.
The Solesides crew would begin operating under the Quannum Collective moniker in 1999, releasing new albums, singles and EPs by the individual artists as well as the Quannum Spectrum compilation that featured a number of unique collaborations between members and affiliated friends like Jurassic 5, Company Flow leader and future Run the Jewels MC/producer El P and rapper Divine Styler.
Through the 2000s, the label signed and released new artists like Brazilian soul star Curumin, Portland, OR-based hip-hop act Lifesavas, UK funk band Poets of Rhythm and more as well as solo efforts from Gab and Lyrics Born and recordings by new configurations such as Maroons (the tandem of Chief Xcel and Lateef).
Though focused mostly on their own careers of late — Blackalicious put out the duo’s first new album in a decade, Imani, Vol. 1, in 2015, while LB released his fourth solo album Real People — this special Quannum MCs show at the Fillmore Wednesday night will feature Gift of Gab, Chief Xcel, Lateef the Truthspeaker and Lyrics Born along with Chief Xcel and more performing hits from throughout their collective two-decades plus of envelope-pushing hip-hop. The reunion shows planned for late December mark only the second time in the last 12 years the MCs have taken the stage together.
Quannum MCs: Blackalicious, Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker
Wednesday, December 28, 8 p.m. $25