Talib Kweli has been on the verge of stardom for quite some time now. After establishing himself as an elite lyricist on Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, he proved his brilliance and ability to make a complete album with Reflection Eternal. He was an underground darling that’s star glowed so flawlessly that many mainstream artists took notice (Jay-Z, for example). Although Quality introduced him to the 106 & Park audience (via the Kanye West banger “Get By”), many felt that without Hi Tek things would never be the same. Soon after the “conscious” emcee began to move to the forefront thanks to Kanye West’s College Dropout and it seemed as if artists like Common, Mos Def, The Roots and Talib would take the bull by the horns and steer hip hop back to the beautifully artistic phenomena that it was 10 years ago – before materialism took over. However, the much anticipated Beautiful Struggle failed to capture the essence that Reflection Eternal and Black Star had and thus Kweli found himself straddling the fence of underground darling and mainstream success with the eyes of many waiting to see what he would do next.
Which puts us at the 4th quarter of 2005 and Kweli releasing his next “mixtape” of sorts titled Right About Now. The concept is basically letting the listener in on how Talib feels musically at this very moment. And at this very moment one can tell that Kweli is embracing himself more than ever and is sure footed in his approach to be both the underground daring and the mainstream success. “Right About Now” is the perfect foreword for the album with a rumbling backdrop from 88 Keys. By summing up his career in 3 minutes, Kweli sets the listener up for an album full of music that he did for himself and decided to bestow onto the people. Kweli and Jay Dilla pound out a track that could have landed on the Jaylib project with “Roll Off Me.” Dilla’s dense baselines surrounds Kweli’s stress release. For fans of songs that have made their rounds on the bootleg circuit “Supreme Supreme” and “Flash Gordon” may represent a little vindication for those who felt slighted that these two marvelous cuts never made Beautiful Struggle. The former showcases Mos Def and Talib at their finest, bouncing off of each other with ferocious intentions as the vicious Charlemagne backdrop presses on.
Speaking of collaborations, Talib links up with two of the underground’s finest to deliver probably the strongest cuts on the album. The newest signee to Blacksmith music, Jean Grae, flexes her underappreciated lyrical muscle on “Where You Gonna Run” and the king of complexities, MF Doom, lends his rambunctious lyricism on “Fly That Knot.”
One of the more awkwardly touching songs on the album has got to be “Ms. Hill”. The reason that it is deemed awkward is that Kweli has basically verbalized a letter that could have been written to Lauryn Hill. Sounding strange at first because of the fact that Lauryn hasn’t been at her pinnacle lately (according to the media), “Ms. Hill” turns into a very poignant ode to arguably one of the finest artist in recent memory. Coming from a man who can be considered a star in his own right, Talib is appreciative of Ms. Hill’s struggle and gives a little insight as a fan and friend.
Although some cuts aren’t as fierce as we would like them to be (thanks to Kweli setting the bar extremely high for himself over the years) Right About Now proves that Kweli’s mixtapes have eclipsed his last body of work tremendously and could be an inkling of what Kweli has in store for us in the future. For those of you hollering for a Hi Tek reunion? Get over it. That time has passed and Kweli is focusing what he has Right About Now. And judging by his work on Right About Now, the future is looking mighty bright.
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