Talib Kweli is one of the few artists I seek out in US hip hop, not for his bullshit posturing or his “Bling”, “Swag” or “Cray” but for his effortless way of delivering powerhouse lyricism and creativity.
Kweli is an artist with integrity in this hard and fast hip hop industry these days and he always brings it home with lines which leave you thinking and sample power which shows his leadership in the industry.
Some of the standout tracks on the album talk about stories of poverty and unity – something hard to come by in this day and age. It harks back to a time when hip hop was truly the voice of the disparate and the desperate, still rooted in the struggle but feeling hopeful as well as wise to the con life throws at you. In 2013, this is hard to come by. The only other person I can think of who is playing this true-to-fact card is Lupe Fiasco and although they often get categorised together, in some ways, I think Kweli is superior. I really like the flow and feel of ‘Favela Love’ which features late in the album but drives home the feeling of poverty for those living in the ghettos and favelas of the world without reinforcing the stereotype of gun toting muthafuckas out to get you for your five cents. Singer Seu George is magic on this track, bringing the international flavor to the production.
Similarly, the intro track leading into track two, ‘Human Mic’ shows Kweli knows a thing or two about starting an album and leads the way with a commonly used sample featured in the last Fiasco album. I think Kweli uses this sample better but that’s a personal thing. I still love the Fiasco ‘Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album’ release of earlier this year, but I think Kweli does it better and with less stress and well, effort. It feels like this is the album Fiasco wanted to make and in some ways, I think postponing the release after it has made ‘Prisoner of Conscious’ better for it.
The collab artists are an interesting bunch on this release with people like Kendrick Lamar and Curren$y kinda somewhat expected. Kendrick is the man of the moment for those underground heads, although his last release what not the best. But what really surprises is the inclusion of artists such as Busta Rhymes, Seu George and the one and only Abby Dobson. Wondering why that rings a bell? Aside from her awesome solo career, Dobson was/is the frontwoman of Australia indie group ‘Leonardo’s Bride’. Dobson is a really weird inclusion, but one that really shows Kweli’s superiority in gathering the troops of the underground; even from far off Australia. She appears on the great track ‘Before He Walked’ alongside another strange inclusion, Nelly, but seems to effortlessly slot into the style and form of the track. I’m quite impressed by the artist lineup in this release and although I’ve kinda gushed in this review, I was very surprised it was still up to Kweli standards; just showing I am perpetually in awe of his prowess in the studio.
Kudos, Talib Kweli, you have invigorated my love of true “word is bond” hip hop coming from the birthplace of Stars and Stripes.
9/10 two turntables and a microphone