Gift of Gab (Tim Parker) and Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley) met at John F. Kennedy High School in 1987 in Sacramento, California and formed the group in early 1992. They released their first recording, "Swan Lake", on Solesides Records. The Solesides Crew consisted of the duo, as well as other friends of theirs they had met at University of California - Davis, including DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker. The single was an underground hit, but label trouble prevented the duo from immediately capitalizing on their fame. In late 1997, Solesides became Quannum Projects and in 1999 Blackalicious released the A2G EP, which served as a precursor to their debut full length album, Nia, which was released the following year. This was followed by a major label contract with MCA Records and the release of the critically acclaimed album Blazing Arrow in 2002. In May 2004 Gift of Gab released his first solo album, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, but he assured fans that Blackalicious was alive and well. A third full length, entitled The Craft, was released on Epitaph Records imprint ANTI- on September 27, 2005.
This duo of genre-bender pride has made a name for itself on the Bay Area scene by successfully mixing spiritualism and hip-hop. Oakland's MC Zumbi and DJ/producer Amp Live blend hip-hop and trip-hop beats with lyrics focused on a message of unity, hope, and spiritual awareness. Although Zion I operates out of Berkeley, the pair originally met in Atlanta, making their music difficult to classify as strictly West Coast hip-hop. Their musical style makes them even harder to define. With a style that borrows from hip-hop, trance, drum'n'bass, and reggae, Zion I's style is equally mystical and mystifying. Zumbi and Amp Live formed Zion I in Oakland, CA in 1996, and produced several self-released cassettes. The duo slowly made inroads while opening for rap royalty like De La Soul, Rakim, and Run-D.M.C.