Gift of Gab, One Half of Hip-Hop Duo Blackalicious, Dies at 50

Gift of Gab, one half the Bay Area underground hip-hop duo Blackalicious, passed away on June 18, following a nearly decade-long battle with kidney disease. He was 50. 

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Born Timothy Jerome Parker, Gab started out playing in the San Francisco Bay Area with high school friend DJ Chief Xcel as Blackalicious in 1992. The pair released their debut EP Melodica in 1994, under Solesides, which later transitioned into Quannum Projects, a record label and collective of artists supporting the Bay Area hip-hop community. Quannum released the 1999 Spectrum compilation, featuring DJ Shadow, Jurrassic-5, Souls of Mischief, and Blackalicious, who also released their first full-length album, Nia, that same year under the label.

“Tim peacefully departed this earth to be with our ancestors,” said Quannum in a statement.

In addition to his work with Blacklicious, Gab released three solo albums throughout his career, including his 2004 debut 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, Escape 2 Mars in 2009, and The Next Logical Progression in 2012.

First diagnosed with kidney failure in 2014, Parker documented his struggle with the condition, caused by type 1 diabetes, in the 2016 Michael Jacobs-helmed Gift of Gab documentary. Undergoing dialysis three to four times a week, sometimes while on tour, Gab was always known to remain hopeful and creative, continuing to write and record throughout his battle. 

Blackalicious released their fourth and final album, Imani Vol. 1 in 2015, the duo’s first in more than a decade.

“He was one of the most positive human beings I have ever known and always looking toward the future,” said Brian Ross, Gab’s manager for Blackalicious and his solo career. “He was endlessly brimming with new ideas, philosophical perspectives, and thoughts about the future. He was always ready to learn, grow and engage in a deep conversation about things he was less familiar with. A simple conversation with him about nearly anything could take you places you would never have expected.”

On January 31, 2020, coincidentally, the last date of Blackalicious’ tour, Parker underwent a kidney transplant and set up a GoFundMe page to help with his recovery post-operation.

Parker is survived by his two brothers, a sister, nieces and nephews and his Quannum crew.

Still writing until the end, Gift of Gab left behind a legacy of music, producing nearly 100 songs he hoped to release with Blackalicious.

“Our brother was an MC’s MC who dedicated his life to his craft—one of the greatest to ever do it,” said Chief Xcel. “He’s the most prolific person I’ve ever known. He was all about pushing the boundaries of his art form in the most authentic way possible.”

He added, “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.”

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