Talib Kweli’s long-delayed Prisoner Of Conscious LP was supposed to be his attempt at making a “commercial” album, for lack of a better term. However the end result after almost two years of recording sessions was instead one of his most solid projects to date, one that sacrificed little to the pop radio market, save two respectable collaborations with Miguel and Nelly. To make up for lost time, Kweli closed out 2013 with a second album release, Gravitas, on his own Javotti Media imprint.
Gravitas takes Talib back to his independent roots, without the pressures of a major label to create some kind of marketable “single”. The end result finds Talib at his most lyrical, with a series of topical songs that present some of his most astute verses yet. His penchant for rich, content-fueled rhymes doesn’t overshadow the production either, as the team of producers behind Gravitas bless him with lush, big bodied beats.
“State Of Grace” is the story of one female hip-hop fan turned emcee, who shared a passion for the culture until she got involved with it. This bittersweet track is not only a respectable nod to the oft-overlooked female rappers, but also something that many disillusioned hip-hop fans – male or female – will be able to relate to. Again on the Oh No produced “Rare Portraits”, Talib gives a brief history of the early days of his career, and recognizes many of today’s like-minded “underground” rappers that are still doing it. Later on “The Wormhole”, things get a bit more heavy-handed as he debunks Illuminati conspiracy theories once and for all. Each of these tracks are testament to Talib’s sharp lyrical pen.
Like many of his other LP’s, Gravitas is not without high-profile guest appearances, which make this feel less like an indie album, and one with budget of something bigger. In this case, that’s a good thing. “Violations” is a line-for-line “Kwel vs. Chef” if you will, as Raekwon and Talib trade lyrical jabs in one of the more natural sounding collaborations of the year. “Demonlogy” with Big K.R.I.T. also stands out, as the two share a hard hitting track produced by Lord Quest that might have fit well on Public Enemy’s Apocalypse ’91 LP. And the basement banger “Art Imitates Life”, the first teaser track released from the album, pits each Talib, Black Thought and Rah Digga over an Oh No track, with great results.
Things begin to wind down towards the end of the LP, with the standout “What’s Real”, which finds Talib exercising a hypnotic Southern inspired flow, and “Colors Of You”, which closes the record out over a Dilla beat. A concise 11 tracks, Gravitas wastes no time with filler or radio attempts; this is Talib in his element.
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