Like an early autumn thunderstorm, Talib Kweli’s latest effort “Eardrum” rips through the summer-long drought of decent hip-hop, elevating the BKMC to a new stratosphere of creative musical expression. Coming fully equipped with a rhyme book filled with new material, his sixth solo album radiates intense brilliance like lightening, striking fear in the hearts of weak rappers and sore critics.
“Eardrum” dropped last Tuesday on Kweli’s own newly formed Blacksmith Music record label. This album takes Kweli to a new level of game, demonstrating the veteran artist’s ability to continuously put out influential and important music, even in the era where the most popular commercial rappers could be heard in heavy rotation on the traditionally pop radio stations.
If you’re down with Kweli’s lyrical and socially conscious style, you will not be disappointed. He drops flows on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the seriousness of lower-income communities’ inaccessibility to high quality food in “Eat to Live,” to the promiscuity of life on the road as rap star in the Norah Jones collaboration, “Soon The New Day.”
Although there are quite a number of guest appearances in the 20 songs on the album, Kweli outshines his colleagues with the skill of a master wordsmith who has one hand on the mic, and the other checking the pulse of society. This is especially true on the Kanye West collaboration, “In the Mood.” Aside from producing a dope track, which has a very mellow and jazzy beat, Kanye decides to drop one of the wackest verses ever put on wax. The level of garbage that comes out of that man’s mouth could only be matched by 50-Cent’s verse on an otherwise banging Hi-Tek beat on the first track of the “Beg For Mercy” album. Or Mack 10’s talking-supposed-to-be-rapping on the remix to Celly Cell’s “It’s Going Down Tonight.”
“Eardrum” has a wide range of collaborators, from Justin Timberlake to reggae superstar Sizzla. The otherwise unheard of Coi Mattison, and Lyfe Jennings, sing the hook for “Give ‘Em Hell,” a song critical of organized religion. “It all sounds same to me. / That’s why when they say one’s right and one’s wrong, it all sounds like game to me.” New York’s own underground female sensation Jean Grae tears up the track “Say Something” with lyrics like, “Hip-hop’s not dead, it’s on vacation. / We back. We bask in confrontation.”
Another sick track on the album is the Hi-Tek production “More or Less.” With Hi-Tek’s melody man Dion singing the hook on the song, Kweli introduces a series of verses that directly address a problem and then give a solution for it. “More history, less mystery. / More Beyonce, less Britney.”
But, by far, the hardest cut on the record is “The Perfect Beat.” With underground hip-hop legend KRS-One spitting bars along side Kweli, producer Swiff D creates an instant classic by sampling Bob Marley’s “Do It Twice.” Kweli writes about his experience working with KRS in the studio on his website, www.talibkweli.com. “We wrote ‘The Perfect Beat’ standing side by side in the vocal booth, spitting our verses as soon as we wrote them?That’s hip-hop.”
With over 10 years in the rap game, Kweli shows that he is still a powerhouse in a genre that is being strangled by greedy record executives and untalented artists trying to get rich. Consistency is one of this star’s greatest talents, and “Eardrum” is no exception. Referring to emcees who have love for hip-hop and the timelessness of their music, Kweli states on his website, “These are the artists who will stay around for years, while you are embarrassed about that song you used to like three years ago.”
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