“I can’t be everything to everyone at the same time”
That line from the Madlib produced intro “Everything Man” epitomizes the career of Talib Kweli. Before any of the celebrity that Kweli has garnered over the past few years, Talib Kweli was a starving artist making a name for himself alongside Mos Def and Hi Tek on Black Star and then on the classic offering with Hi Tek (better known as Reflection Eternal), Train of Thought. As the critical acclaim arrived, Kweli found himself in front of a much larger audience who’s tastes vary. His solo endeavors seemed tailor-made for a larger audience, but Quality & Beautiful Struggle almost alienated his core fanbase because of the obvious attempts to claim a crossover crowd. When Beautiful Struggle failed to live up to expectations, Kweli was almost written off as someone who couldn’t reclaim his prior thunder. With expectations lowered, Kweli delivers Eardrum and brilliantly reclaims many of the fans he lost over the years.
When the sonic sounds of “Everything Man” level the listener with its smooth production and solid lyricism, it is obvious that Kweli is done with pleasing everyone and is out to just do him. Just Blaze takes everyone to church with the pounding “Hostile Gospel”, as Kweli once again spits with a new born ferocity.
Eardrum is easily Kweli’s most consistent solo work to date. There aren’t many hiccups of forced mainstream appeal prevalent throughout. Instead you get vicious offerings like the Jean Grae assisted “Say Something” and Kweli keeps it silky smooth for the ladies on the Will.I.Am offering “Hot Thing”. Pulsating with a swanky groove, Kweli keeps it cool for the honeys.
Kanye West drops in to get everyone “In The Mood” as the two do what they do best - Kanye with sharp wit and Kweli with his intellect. Even though Norah Jones appearing on “Soon The New Day” may scream for mainstream attention, her contribution flows effortlessly and fits perfectly. Unfortunately you can’t say the same for the uncomfortable feel of the Justin Timberlake collabo “The Nature”. If any song on the album feels forced, it definitely is this one. With a Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is The Love”-like approach, we could definitely do without this song. “Stay Around” may prove to be a bit too friendly in the same vein, but these moments aren’t splattered all over the album.
A great album could have been even better with the trimming of some fat. But that’s the least to complain about. On “Say Something” Kweli makes the statement, “They say I’m back, but I haven’t gone anywhere though.” We’re not too sure where you’ve been Kwel, but we’ve been here simply waiting for an album like this.
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