by Talib Kweli
It has come to my attention that some people are not aware of this, so I'll put it plainly: some hip-hop is really good. No, really. Whilst semi-literate and dull-witted 'playaz' and 'thugz' Jah Rule and 'Nelly' (for fucks sake) continue to dominate both the pop charts and mainstream cultural awareness of what hip-hop is all about, there are large numbers of genuinely creative, intelligent, articulate and politically aware artists out there. You just have to look a little harder.
One such artist is Talib Kweli - erstwhile one-half of 'Black Star' with Mos Def and one-half of 'Reflection Eternal' with DJ Hi-Tek, here cutting out on his own. Uh.. on his own apart from the albumful of collaborators, guest vocalists, producers and showbiz buddies, anyway.
Quality is, like so many albums in these troubled times, far too long, and could have stood some heavy editing. It opens with a devastating three-track salvo of sheer exhilarating brilliance: the bluntly confrontational Rush, the gospel-tinged Get By and the infectiously energetic Shock Body, but things fall off considerably after that with a selection of uneven and occasionally misjudged tunes. Particularly disappointing is Joy, wherein Kweli raps about the effect his children have had upon his life. All well and good, but it seems a little perverse to draft in possibly the most talented rapper in the world today, Mos Def, for guest vocals, only to have him do nothing but mumble 'Yeah, Kweli, I know how you feel' about twenty times. This is way up there on the scale of lame rip-off rap shittiness - he may as well have been waving an arm in the air and going 'two times'. I mean, for god's sake.
For all its faults though, this album does deserve credit for featuring the track The Proud, which features - no, seriously - sensitive, intelligent and reasoned commentary on US foreign and social policy in the light of September 11th, 2001. Including the following lines of genius:
"The president's a Bush and the vice-president's a Dick,
So a whole lot of fucking is what we're gonna git"