Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Album Review: Talib Kweli -Gravitas

Talib Kweli
***and1/2 out of *****

2 albums in 2 years from Talib Kweli as he follows up Prisoner of Consciousness with Gravitas. On Prisoner... Kweli seemed to be rebelling against fans/media labeling him a "conscious rapper" on Gravitas he is back in his normal mode and seems even more invigorated coming at the listener with a ton of things to say piling verses on top of verses.

On "Rare Portraits" Kweli goes back through his history and the history in general of hip-hop ending on a powerful note: "From making the way for Kanye/to meetings with Mr. Harry Belafonte/All started on park benches with Dante" recalling Kweli's Black Star partner Dante Terrel Smith better known as Mos Def and their vital roll in the genre. "Inner Monologue" also has the feel of a successful elder statement assessing the scene and not exactly excited about with lines like: "Niggas don't get rich rapping, they selling clothes or liquor/My flow is sicker cause I flow with vigor/I'm no beginner, peep the whole agenda/Control my center cause I gravitate with Gravitas".

The disk starts off great with some thick musical tracks, there are layers of beats, instruments and sounds highlighted by Gary Clark Jr.'s guitar licks in "Demonology". As the disk progresses though Kweli moves to more new school beats like on the conspiracy theory shattering "The Wormhole" and musically things aren't as successful. The pairing of his elongated word flow and digital thin beats doesn't match well, same goes for the sped up tempo of "New Leaders" where Kweli has a lot to say but the dance beat jars up against his phrasing.

Guest selection on the disk is quality all around, adding a spice to the disk as Black Thought's opening verse on "Art Imitates" is a winner and Raekwon drops serious heat on disk highlight "Violations". 

A track like "State Of Grace" with hook from Abby Dobson is right in Kweli's wheelhouse, and a perfect summation of the album. Talib dissects the lack of female role models painting an amazing scene talking about a mother who "grew up loving hip hop/Now all her daughter got is "Love & Hip Hop"" ripping reality shows as easily as he rips absentee fathers. The track goes on for close to 6 minutes and this is what fans of Kweli love and others find tedious, he won't ever escape "conscious rapper" label but by continuing to put out albums like this why would he want to?            
Back in the day we never really got into Black Star, a bit to stiff and heady hip-hop for us at the time but have appreciated things Kweli and Mos Def have done since. This is pretty solid, especially the first 5 tracks all worth checking out. 

Support the artist here, buy the album here, peep some video below:

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