Two years since his previous effort Gutter Rainbows hit stores, Brooklyn rhymer Talib Kweli drops off his fifth solo album Prisoner of Conscious. With an array of featured guests, a magnitude of rhythmically responsive instrumental backdrops and more subject matters than a book of short stories, the 15 track lyrical get down is a tempo frenzy of intellectual poetry.
Since bursting onto the scene during the late ’90s, Kweli has consistently been an artist that fans of traditional Hip-Hop could trust to deliver an educational and passionately driven end product. His collaborative debuts, 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star and 2000‘s Train of Thought, as part of the duo Reflection Eternal alongside producer Hi-Tek, are highly regarded not only amongst fans but also his cultural peers. Still very much an active member of the Hip-Hop community, Kweli is not only an alternative to today’s commercially non-distinctive Hip-Pop, he’s also teaching today’s youth that there is so much more to this culture than meets the eye.
“Rappers today now are confusing you/ I know you’re tired of the usual/ Like Trey Songz and Drake“ – Kweli steps away from trends on “Ready Set Go,” partnering the sentiment with some catchy vocals provided by Melanie Fiona. With the help of man-of-the-moment, Miguel, the album’s lead single “Come Here” hears Kweli produce one of the records of his career as, love drunk and wearing his heart on his sleeve, he writes a poem dipped in quirky innuendos and romantically honest comparisons.
Blessing the listener with some beautiful moments, “Hamster Wheel,” “It Only Gets Better” and the Seu Jorge featuring “Favela Love” prove that Kweli still knows how to do what he does best. Switching the mood to one overdosed on testosterone, Kweli doesn’t really follow a pattern as far as a cohesive layout goes. Teaming up with Busta Rhymes and RZA on “Rocket Ships,” those looking for something a little heavier are sure to be happy with this head-nodding eardrum piercer.
Taking another shot at crafting a similar offering, Kweli unfortunately comes up short with “Upper Echelon.” Besides the annoyingly poor choice of instrumental backing and grating female vocal addition, Kweli appears as if he’s imitating what he as a lyricist has been fighting against for so long. Committing a lyrical felony by spitting the lines, “Real shit, back it’s a miracle/ Rap been laughable the last year or two,” the lack of beat/rhyme unity makes it seem as if he’s fighting against himself.
Restoring faith and balance, “Push Thru” hears Kweli enlist the help of two of today’s highly respected newcomers, Curren$y and Kendrick Lamar, to break lyrical bread with the veteran rhymer. Over a soulfully technical backdrop the lyrical trio open up about pushing the envelope. Knocking down competitive walls and never giving up is the moral of this story.
All in all, Prisoner of Conscious is a rollercoaster ride full of lyrical excellence, romantic gestures, hit and miss creative decisions and grown folk talk. Longterm Hip-Hop fans will enjoy the LP for its connection to the golden era.