Every now and then I find myself in a mood that just needs a steady beat to it. It’s the same mood you feel when you were a kid and wake up to your mother telling you school is canceled, because of a snow storm. You’re energy level is boosted with excitement and creativity. As an adult, I still get that feeling sometimes. I wake up already nodding my head to the beats in my head. Now just add the music, friends, and some wine at night then you’ll be set up for a win that day. One of the vinyl albums that consistently fill the beat-void for me is The Craft by Blackalicious.
Blackalicious is Tim parker and Xavier Mosley, aka Gift of Gab and DJ/ Producer Xcel. Together they first met in high school in the Sacramento area of California. They went their separate ways but met up again in Davis, California where they both went to college at University of California Davis. UC Davis is also the leading college in the United States for viticulture and oenology. It is a home for creative and scientific minds that always land on the forefront of their respected crafts. While in school and collaborating with influential hip hop gurus like Lyrics Born, Lateef, and DJ Shadow, the duo released the first Blackalicious EP in the mid 1990s. In 2000 the group signed their first major label deal with MCA and released Blazing Arrows in 2002 featuring guests like Zach De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine and also the Roots. The album was a hit. It was hit in the hip hop world. In 2005, Blackalicious followed up Blazing Arrows with The Craft. They worked with engineer Russell Elevato who is the genius behind some of the greatest albums from D’angelo, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, and many more. The Craft is one of my personal favorite hip hop albums of all time and its creativity lyrically and musically is exquisite. Horn use is full blast and guest appearances are abundant. I don’t have very many hip hop vinyls at home, just a few from groups like Blackalicious, Jurassic 5, and Mos Def, but The Craft definitely gets the most play.
One of my favorite wine pairings with this vinyl is Three Wine Co. Old Vines Zinfandel. Owner/ Winermaker Matt Cline of the Cline Wine dynasty and his wife Erin launched Three in the early 2000s. Matt attended UC Davis just before Blackalicious to hone his own personal “craft.” I was fortunate enough to enjoy a dinner with Matt in Virginia at Trummers on Main in Clifton, Virginia. He is a very smart and passionate about his wines. The wines he makes are fantastic. It is no surprise that his Zinfandels are superb beyond belief. Hailing from a family with reigning superiority over zinfandel production in the Sonoma, it is obvious he had learned a few things over the year and they took some of the creativity of his to put a spin on the juice. The grapes for his old vines zinfandel comes from vines that have an average age of 100 years old. Producing spicy, rich, and concentrated zinfandels is an art, his art. Matt is an artist and his Old Vine Zinfandel is his very craft. If you can get your hands on this vinyl and a bottle of Three Old Vine Zinfandel, pop them both open. Turn the speaker volume on full blast, and sit back. The combination will overtake your senses. You will find your inner-dialogue always interrupting your train of thought all evening long and it would say something like, “holy smokes, this is really f*cking good.”