TALIB KWELI
Quality
Record label: Rawkus
Format: 2xLP/CD
Release date: 19 Novemeber 2002

Talib Kweli, the other half of the duo Black Star, is back with his second solo offering. Coming off 2001ís Reflection Eternal, he returns in Quality and itís interesting to see his train of thought the second time out (pun intended). There was a little buzz about this album prior to its release. A lot of people were saying that Talib had abandoned the consciousness and the revolutionary battle skills for a more commercial sound. Well, thatís only half true, so itís O.K. - you can calm down. If you were looking for another Reflection Eternal, stop reading this review now and pray for Black Star Galactica. While this album still contains the consciousness and depth that Kweli brings to the mic and the cohesive, soulful feel that you'd expect, it definitely is something you may not be used to from him. Fellow spitkicker Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought, Mos Def, and Bilal are just some of the guests. A star studded and eclectic cast of producers round out the beats. Kanye West, DJ Quik, Ayatollah, J Dilla, and Soulquarians provide a diverse mix of R&B influenced tracks and soul.

At first, I didnít know how to take this album. I heard two of the singles before listening to the whole record and cringed a little. It really seemed like Talib was trying to cross over. OK, he's gotta eat...fine. But I'm listening to the album and there is a lot of stuff I like. Though it's a different Kweli, he's still on some Brooklyn, family, revolutionary music vibe. "Get By" is his plea for people to wake up and live. "Joy" details his experiences with the birth of his children. This is my favorite track and with Mos backing him on the chorus and Ayatollahís sunshine beat, the track shines. "Waiting for the DJ," "Shock Body" and "Good To You" definitely are sounds youíd liken to whatís Hot on 9-7. Sonically it just sounds geared towards a different audience. I see older heads (mid-late twenties) getting into this album more than the underground/independent scene. Some of the tracks are hit and miss ("Shock Body," "Guerilla Monsoon"), but "Good To You," "Get By," and "Joy" sound like Kweli has progressed his sound. The sense is that he tried to cover all bases, appeal to his original audience, but reach out to some heads in the mainstream. It seems that production more than anything is what will judge where you go in this game right now. Quality definitely looks to push the production in a direction Kweli has never been before. A lot of soul and R&B on this album - that creates a more mature mood. Cats like Kanye West have possibly updated the "sample" to another plateau and heads have tuned in on that. "Get By" has to be one of the most soulful and funky tracks Iíve heard Kweli on (and thatís saying a lot considering Hi-Tek did his first album). I'm enjoying the album more than I thought I would. Some not so pleasant surprises, but it's getting me through the day and it's not really tuning me out. Good Album.

{mikal lee (hired gun)}


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