Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Don't Call It A Comeback: Kweli's Been In the Building

Kweli is back. Thank goodness.

I'm speaking of course, about Talib Kweli, BK MC, who has been regarded with both honor and disdain in the underground rap universe. His latest album, “Ear Drum,” leaked on the internet last week. It's not scheduled for proper release until July, but in today's music market, bootleg material is as ubiquitous as political campaigning.

“Ear Drum” is full of the hard beats and hard (as in complicated) rhymes that earned Kweli accolades from heads everywhere. There are some monsters on here, but the overall vibe is that Kweli has created his first true solo masterpiece, and it's about dang time.

The album opens with the somber “Everything Man,” Kwe spitting about how he's everything to everyone, a boast that might have gotten him in trouble only a short time ago with his alienated fans. Kweli's fan base has been hard on the guy because he hasn't lived up to the potential of his first two albums, “Black Star” and “Reflection Eternal.” “Ear Drum” should go a long way toward fixing that.

The second track, “New York Weather Report,” is a heat rock that finds Kweli in his comfort zone, dishing out lines like "I'm not a judge but I'm handing out sentences/for political prisners, or regular inmates with no visitors. ” Kweli rides the beat with his signature 1000 syllables a bar pace, but he manages with ease. It's hard to command a breathless flow while balancing word play and content, but Kweli makes it look easy.

Other standouts include the thumping “Country Cousins,” a humorous foreign exchange between the Brooklyn academy alum and Texas legend Bun B and Pimp C, aka UGK. The song “Soon The New Day” finds Kweli spitting a sexy tale about trying to pick up on a fly heina. With Nora Jones singing a sultry hook and producer Madlib flipping the beat, it's a solid choice for a second single.

While talk of a comeback is reserved more for cynics and haters who don't want to afford Kweli his room for growth. “Ear Drum” isn't a perfect record, but it's a perfectly timed record, as Kweli now has a chance to re-establish himself as one of the best in the game. Hopefully, there's no turning back from that.

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