The Hip Hop community has suffered yet another crushing blow with the unexpected death of Blackalicious MC Gift of Gab. Born Timothy Parker in Sacramento, the razor sharp lyricist proved his rhyming prowess on the mic time and time again.
Beginning with Quannum Projects in the 1990s, Gab and Blackalicious co-founder Chief Xcel went on to release several celebrated albums, including 1999’s NIA and 2002’s Blazing Arrow. Most recently, Blackalicious was putting the finishing touches on the sequel to 2015’s Imani Vol. 1, the aptly titled Imani Vol. 2.
While an official cause of death has yet to be revealed, Gift of Gab has suffered with health issues for years after being diagnosed with kidney failure in 2014. After receiving a double kidney transplant in 2020, he was seemingly on the mend and looking forward to getting back on the road. After all, he loved being on tour and connecting with his fans.
Lyrics Born, who was also signed to Quannum Projects early on along with DJ Shadow, Lateef The Truthspeaker and Lifesavas, penned a fitting Instagram tribute to the late Hip Hop legend and revealed the Quannum family always dreaded this day.
“4 the past few yrs there was an ongoing discussion amongst X, Lateef, & myself that Gab may not be with us forever, & that we agreed 2 making the most of what time we did have together,” he wrote. “This is why I took every Quannum MCs ‘reunion’ show I could. I didn’t care how much money we made, I didn’t care how many tickets we sold.
“All I cared abt was having those moments with my brother. I’ve known Gab since we were teenagers, & he is the best rapper I’ve ever known. His monk-like commitment 2 his music was the same @ 19 yo as it was @ 50. He never had many worldly possessions, & not because he couldn’t afford them, he simply wasn’t interested.
He continued, “He had helllla books, tho. Books on history, metaphysics, spirituality, & most notably, towers & towers of RHYMEBOOKS. Frayed spiral notebooks by the dozen, with an untold number of songs & verses, all in his trademark handwriting that always reminded me of a 5th grader.
“He didn’t care about accumulating the material trappings of life, he only cared about understanding the ultimate MEANING of life. Personal & spiritual growth is what drove him, & he kept himself on a perpetual path of discovery. He documented that journey in all those Blackalicious & solo albums we love & connect with so deeply.”
R.A. The Rugged Man worked with Gab in 2017 on the song “Freedom Form Flowing” featuring A-F-R-O. The YouTube video has since amassed over 10 million views and put his top-notch lyricism firmly on display.
“Gab was just a tremendously skilled high level technician and an amazing soul,” R.A. The Rugged Man tells HipHopDX. “It’s such a huge loss for the culture. I was honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him. We did a small, no budget song independently for his Patreon and it unexpectedly blew up and millions of millions of people went crazy over it all over the world.
“It was such awesome time but music aside, he was just a humble, down-to-earth real dude that just loved the craft and art of spitting and perfected it.”
Tributes are continuing to mount on social media. Macklemore was among the many who talked about Gift of Gab’s immense impact, saying in part, “Out of the countless MC’s I’ve been inspired by, he holds probably the #1 spot as someone that not only shaped who I am as an MC but as a human. He was an example of someone that perfectly mixed his spiritual path with his artistry. There really wasn’t any separation. I had to pull the car over when I found out.”
In a 2019 interview with HipHopDX, Gab touched on how little mainstream success meant to him and made it clear he was always a student of the culture.
“I think music should motivate,” he said at the time. “I get motivated by songs. I hear a certain song and I’ll feel a certain way and get a certain motivation by it. I’ve always admired even the lyricists like that. So I always knew the type of lyricist that I wanted to be and it feels great to hear people come and say that what we we put out actually touched their lives. That’s better than being No. 1 or Top 10 on the chart.”
Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Evidence, DJ Shadow, El-P, Lateef and the Pharcyde’s Slimkid3 are just a few of the many sending their condolences. Check out the reactions below.
It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear brother Timothy J Parker aka The Gift of Gab,” announces his crew Quannum. “Tim departed this earth to be with our ancestors on Friday, June 18, 2021.
💔 Heartbroken !!! Rest In Peace to the legendary mc GIFT OF GAB of Blackalicious. Not only a friend and a great humble human being but a super influential West Coast monster technician. One of the Best !! RIP to a Hip Hop king pic.twitter.com/YzLA3sHzyO