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Talib Kweli
Ear Drum

talibkweli.jpgThroughout his nearly decade-long career, Talib Kweli has been dogged by suggestions of what he should change about his music. If he would just “tweak” this or “alter” that, then the perennial underdog could become a bona fide star. After three lyrically intense albums with political undertones, however, the Brooklyn MC sticks to his guns with Ear Drum, the first release from his freshly minted Blacksmith label.

Kweli knows his shortcomings, but like a rebellious child, he does what he wants to anyway. The stubborn lyricist acknowledges this fact on the easygoing “Electrify,” where he outlines his own flaws (“You should rap on beat/You should rap more street/And never, ever get your mack on, please”). Failing to heed the final critique results in the jazzy “In the Mood,” where Talib awkwardly tries to set a scene of seduction. Another slipup is the piano-drenched “Star.” Featuring Musiq’s crooning on the hook, the DJ Khalil–produced track comes off cliché and a bit too self-righteous for its own good.

Talib fares better when he channels the feel of 2002’s mini–breakout hit “Get By” on the choir-backed “Hostile Gospel.” Supported by Just Blaze’s moody keys and strings, he successfully laments society’s ills without sounding stale (“Look up, the clouds is ominous/We got maybe 10 years left, say meteorologists/Shit, we still waitin’ for the Congress to acknowledge this”). The flashback effect continues with the Jean Grae–featured “Say Something,” where will.i.am uses the same opening horn sample of the Lords of the Underground’s “Funky Child.” A more notable, albeit unexpected, collaboration comes on the bluesy “Country Cousins,” which finds Kweli and UGK trading bars about their mutual respect for each other’s region.

Unlike 2004’s The Beautiful Struggle, which clumsily juxtaposed grungy backpack beats with basic mainstream medleys, Ear Drum is a more sonically cohesive endeavor. Having more fun with the music and ignoring his critics, Talib proves that, sometimes, the only one worth listening to is yourself. —DEMETRIA LUCAS

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  • Were Read 2 Def

    U didnt even mention NY Weather Report.

  • Yun

    i will be buying this one..

  • Ali

    im coppin’ it….I heard every track mentioned here & ya i gotta be real, in tha mood was just ok it wasnt fire like tha rest…….still of course ima cop it its gonna be a masterpiece like finding forever

  • casho

    i hate to say this but i found a site with it on and i have downloaded it 4 free its a great album the best song is called hostile gospel

  • Cuban Link

    I cant wait to BUY this not download it for free like some coon who doesnt wanna support hip hop

  • Young Sleep

    I will buy his and common album, they are 2 of the best. definitly deserves XL.

  • http://xxl nystandup

    fear not my people there are still a few fighting this clown rap south shit wit serious content and bars of fire shits hot cop one lost ones steer clear of the crappers of today support your local rapper ny read da name stand up

  • Rema

    And hip-hop slowly returns…

    Rap will be making it’s combeck with Nacirema Dream and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2

  • http://www.myspace.com/spearmaster Ron White

    Man, I love Talib. Talib, Common, and Mos. The three best MC’s today. I already heard the leaked version and it is fire. I’m gonna buy this when it comes out. For me to be from Nashville, I mean this with all my heart: Fuck Buck, Joc, Boosie, and any other ignorant ass nigga that was ruined great ass hip-hop.

  • TaZ

    Only album besides Below the Heavens that came out this year and i can listen to straght through. Hip Hop aint dead, it was on vacation…

  • SPACEMANRAM

    Talib is defintly on my top 10.His new LP is everything a real hip hop album
    should be.That Just Blaze joint is FIRE!!

  • THEGOD

    what type of review was this? 1st off this should have gotten an XXL but i understand why it didn’t (20 tracks…damn but they are hot in their own way) theres too many to pick a main highlight but the Madlib produced “Soon The New Day” is definitly in the runnin on being the best of the LP. there were a few flubs but besides all that the LP is a definite classic. the best of the year so far.

  • dlockz

    At worst there might be one track not worthy. XXL and the Source dont have a clue but at least XXL does give some respect.

  • dlockz

    Damn , Im lookin back at other reviews, its like yall scared to say anybody’s album is crap and Kweli is lumped with some lame albums.

  • They Call Me Bea

    I LOVE this album! I wish someone would smack Marisa Brown over at All Music Guide…

  • rodo

    this is a really old thread. but there is a version of In The Mood that doesnt feature anyone and its just talib and that song is the shit. He has a line that goes “girl get a clue like colonel mustard in the study with a candle stick”