By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Timothy Parker, better known as the crafty, nimble-tongued rapper the Gift of Gab from the creative Bay Area hip-hop duo Blackalicious, has died of natural causes at age 50, according to social media posts.

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Gift of Gab of Blackalicious performs during Celebrate Brooklyn 2013 at the Prospect Park Bandshell on June 20, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)

The news of Parker’s death surfaced on Friday after a memorial tribute appeared on the group’s official Instagram page, posted by Blackalicious producer and DJ Xavier “Chief Xcel” Mosley. It said that the rapper had died last week on June 18.

“It is with much sadness and a heavy heart I announce the passing of my friend and brother of 34 years, Timothy Jerome Parker aka The Gift of Gab. He returned peacefully to the essence on June 18, 2021,” the post read. According to published reports, he died of natural causes.

Parker had a history of health struggles due to diabetes and kidney failure that put him on dialysis in 2014. He eventually received a kidney transplant in January of last year.

Frequent collaborator Josh Davis — better known as DJ Shadow — also posted about his fallen comrade on Twitter.

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“Gab loved to think of life as just a momentary stage for a much longer journey, and all its trials and tribulations as ‘training’ for the adventures to come after. If there’s one thing I know, wherever Gab is, he’s SOARING right now,” DJ Shadow wrote.

Emerging from the unlikely location of the UC Davis campus in the early 1990s alongside such groundbreaking talents as DJ Shadow and MC/producer Lyrics Born, Blackalicious would help shape the sound of a more cerebral style of underground hip-hop in the Bay Area. Parker had meet his future partner Mosley when both attended Kennedy High School in Sacramento.

Blackalicious (Nicole Mago)

“He was a junior and I was a sophomore. I had moved to Sac earlier that summer from Union City. Gab had moved there two years prior from Pacoima. We had a home economics class together, Mr. Hightower, third period. He sat in the row directly behind me,” Mosley wrote in his Instagram tribute.

The future members of what would become known as the Solesides crew met at KDVS, the 5000-watt college radio station that broadcast from the UC Davis campus. 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 and establish the label of the same name.

In 1994, the imprint issued the debut recorded effort by Blackalicious. Featuring Gab’s dauntingly complex rhymes over gritty, cinematic beats courtesy of Xcel and Shadow, the critically lauded Melodica EP established the duo and the Solesides crew as rising new players on the global hip-hop scene.

It took some time, but the duo eventually followed up on that effort five years later with the equally celebrated A2G EP, which featured the indelible and often covered classic “Alphabet Aerobics” that would launch dozens if not hundreds of YouTube clips and karaoke versions.

Later in 1999, the pair released their acclaimed full-length Nia. By the time Blackalicious had signed to MCA for Blazing Arrow in 2002, the duo was collaborating in the studio with contemporary hip-hop stars — Charlie 2na of kindred spirits Jurassic 5 and The Roots drummer/producer Questlove — and iconic influences like spoken-word pioneer Gil Scott Heron.

The group took a decade-long break issuing new material after The Craft, their effort for Anti-/Epitaph in 2005. While Blackalicious would still regularly perform live and occasionally tour during the hiatus, most of their focus would be on solo efforts and other projects as well as health issues. Gab struggled with diabetes and eventually received a kidney transplant, though he still managed several albums under his own name in addition to a release as part of the group the Mighty Underdogs during the break.

The ten-year silence came to an end last spring when the duo began releasing songs from a promised trilogy of albums. Announced in part by a Pledge Music campaign, the first disc Imani Vol. 1 came out in 2015 to wide acclaim. Parker followed that up with the blistering solo EP Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again!! in 2017.

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Though the group had plans for future volumes of Imani — Gift of Gab said in interviews that Blackalicious had recorded upwards of 70 new songs in various stages of development — it remains to be seen when the gifted MC’s final works will be released.