It’s one thing to make enduring records, another still to work with luminaries in multiple fields. Another thing still to treat the rhyme not only as a piece of poetry, but to play with the aesthetics of language in ways that represent the voice as a unique instrument in and of itself. Blackalicious do all of these things, and as evidenced by the reissue of 1993’s Melodica, they have been doing these things for years. Originally released exclusively on cassette, Melodica is being reissued digitally for the first time. It’s a vital document of the group’s progression towards their eventual position as lords of the West Coast Underground, Gift of Gab twisting his words with aplomb, his lyrics more carefree than his later work. Chief Xcel’s beats, meanwhile, tread the same funky, lighthearted waters as many of his left-field contemporaries, but everything on Melodica is coated in a murky scuzz that, somewhat conversely to logic, could place the EP alongside much of today’s weird, lo-fi hip-hop. As an added treat, Melodica contains “Changes,” an unreleased cut produced in part by one DJ Shadow, who joins forces withBlackalicious producer Chief Xcel to offer dusty drum loops and subtle, textured samples that would offer a glimpse into much of Shadow’s later work. In an era where hip-hop devolves into half-baked facsimile with alarming regularity, Melodica serves as a reminder that the true school will always triumph over the bullshit.