For its fifth release, Blackalicious has created a record of such sonic depth and breadth and lyrical ambition that it can proudly stand alongside the work of Bay Area funk fathers Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis, or hip-hop classics like Outkast’s Aquemini, The Roots’ Things Fall Apart and Gang Starr’s Daily Operation. But The Craft is not nostalgia for some “golden era” that never existed, it represents state-of-the-art hip-hop with an expansive worldview. From its opening, the sublimely orchestrated Stereolab-esque suite of “World of Vibrations”, The Craft moves from peak to peak-including the Prince-ly rush of “Powers”, a sinuous funk summit with George Clinton on “Lotus Flower”, and the seductive meta-futurist soul of “Automatique,” which features special guest vocals from Floetry. The Craft reveals one of global hip-hop’s best-loved crews achieving another artistic breakthrough. “It’s my favorite of all of our albums,” says the Gift of Gab. “I think that it’s our best album.” That’s saying a lot. Begun humbly in high school in 1987, Blackalicious now claims four critically acclaimed albums and EPs to its credit-1995’s Melodica, 1999’s A2G, 1999’s Nia, and 2002’s Blazing Arrow. Emerging from the influential Bay Area indie scene of the mid-90s, they burst onto the world stage and provided a roadmap for hundreds of underground artists to follow. They went on to tour the globe, headlining hundreds of shows and joining the likes of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Public Enemy, and their Quannum homies. What’s more, both producer Chief Xcel and rapper Gift of Gab have remained incredibly prolific. Last year, Gab released Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, which topped college radio charts and graced a popular Diet Coke commercial. Chief Xcel executive-produced the Lifesavas’ 2003 smash Spirit In Stone.