An Oakland emcee, Gift of Gab, real name Timothy Parker, rose to fame as one half of Blackalicious. After two decades in the game, filled with positive emanations, vivid storytelling, elastic rhymes and consistency through reinvention, his passion for music is as prevalent as ever. Across three classic Blackalicious LPs, three praised solo records and 2008′s star-studded collaboration the Mighty Underdogs, not to mention the groundbreaking work of his label Quannum Projects, Gab has been a constant source of innovation and inspiration, giving us as much to mull over as bob our heads to. His latest release “Freedom Form Flowing” featuring R.A. The Rugged Man and A-F-R-O, is proof of all we just mentioned. Have a listen embedded below.
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Chris Remmers: Coming from Sacramento, California, an area often overlooked that holds a tremendous amount of history and beauty, where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of your city?
Gift of Gab: I went to high school in Sacramento and I lived there for about three years. I have a lot of love for Sacramento and it’s really a place my heart is at. That’s three years out of my life I will never forget. I’m from the Southside of Sacramento, but if you were a visitor, and just wanted to experience the city, I would send you to two places, either midtown or Old Sacramento. Midtown is my favorite place to go so I would always recommend people to go there. There is just something special about it, the vibes, the energy, the restaurants, just the whole vibe out there is something that could really capture you. They’re both beautiful places, and that’s where I would recommend a first-time visitor go.
CR: I can tell you where I’ll be going when I visit Sacramento! When did you decide that you were going to pursue a life as a hip-hop artist?
GOG: Oh man, it was really early for me. I think I wrote my first rhyme when I was about, 12 years old — something like that. As I began to grow and [rap] battle people in the area, by about 16 a lot of people were telling me, “Oh man, you’re really good! You should put out a record.” So, that’s when I decided that this is what I was going to do. I started as a battle lyricist, so at first it was all about competition, for me. Eventually, I began to learn how to make songs, write hooks and put records together.
I would say 16 is when I knew it, though. You know when you have that feeling, and you just know you were meant to do something, but at the same time you still have to do what you have to do to make it? That’s what I was dealing with. I was getting such good feedback at 16 it was such a strong influence. And, of course there were the people telling me to get a real job, or that this music thing wasn’t going to work. So, you have to deal with all that, and it’s mostly by people that care about you. But, most of the people that make it are the ones that just went out and proved everyone wrong. They worked hard for what they loved — their passion.
CR: That’s incredible! Some people go their whole lives never realizing their true passions for life. You are indeed a lucky man! Did the culture of the places you grew up in have any sort of influence on your career?
GOG: Absolutely! I would say that both Sacramento and the San Fernando Valley did. I’m originally from SFV, and at that time it was a place that was just so vibrant with hip-hop culture. It was break dancing battles; it was rhyming battles; it was just pure hip-hop out there. That’s what I grew up around, and that’s really what got me started. I just come from the culture bro, through and through.
CR: That sounds like a great time to be growing up in SFV! It must have been so influential to be intertwined within such a vibrant hip-hop community. Hip hop is bigger now than it’s ever been in its history. Where have been some of your favorite venues to preform?
GOG: My favorite venue is the House of Blues, it is always immaculate. It’s just so professional — the restaurant and dressing rooms. I just absolutely love playing at the House of Blues. Weather in [Los Angeles] or New Orleans, they’re amazing places to visit and preform. I would highly recommend anyone, who hasn’t been to one yet, to go and experience the atmosphere and culture.
CR: Obviously, you travel a lot, but when you’re looking for a vacation, or just a quite getaway, are you looking for the beach, mountains or to explore a city?
GOG: I’m definitely more of a city kind of guy I have to admit. I do love the beach. We actually just got back from Cabo [San Lucas] for a friend’s wedding. It was absolutely gorgeous! We spent four days there. I love anything with water or boats. I love to be on the water. If we’re just coolin’ out, I like to lay low, but I do love traveling. When my budget is right, I love to go to all kinds of places from London to Paris and New Zealand. Sometimes you just get the travel bug.
CR: How do you feel music and travel really fit best together in your life? Do you feel travel plays a role with your level of inspiration at times?
GOG: Oh yeah, absolutely! I think that everybody should be able to travel. Obviously, I do it for a living so it’s easier said than done. Traveling has changed me. It changed my outlook on the world. And yes, the energy of new environments brings out different kinds of inspiration for me. I love traveling. I love seeing new places and experiencing all those different things. It really helps put me in a place to express myself lyrically.
CR: Everyone has a list of places they haven’t seen, unless you’re a really lucky individual that’s actually seen it all. Are there there places you haven’t seen that you hope to visit in the near future?
GOG: Absolutely, I will tell you without a question it’s India, Thailand and the Bahamas. My bucket list is actually just so big. There are so many places I want to see. Cuba is also on that list for me, it’s such a beautiful destination filled with raw culture. I would say those are the top priority on my bucket list. I have done my research, and the beauty with the rich cultures draws me to all those places.
CR: Lastly, when’s your next big trip and what’s it for?
GOG: I don’t know about the next vacation, but I we have a ten-day tour coming up in Texas and Minneapolis. Traveling around it should be a lot of fun. Traveling is always a good way to start a work week after Cabo, especially when its touring doing something you love.