Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious

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1. In flashes, Talib Kweli reminds us that he was once-great: he starts the album with “I exhibit characteristics of the average misfit / Who graduated from stabbing and grabbing a biscuit / It’s sick and tragic how antagonistic we get“; and he flexes his lexicon so he can successfully go toe-to-toe with Kendrick Lamar on “Push Thru” (“I smoke these pork rappers so fast they call me charcuterie / I beautifully exude the vibe that’s free of ambiguity / Ya goonery for the sake of goonery is cartoons to me / It’s coonery, it’s lunacy“). But then he does something like: “Alliteration is literally littered / Through my DNA swimming all through my semen” (“Turnt Up”), which might be the worst line of his career. What a waste of the album’s second best beat.

2. “Push Thru” isn’t as good as advertised because Curren$y’s verse is mostly a write-off (except for the line, “Hopping out of Audi’s hurting y’all with kicks, I’m the Transporter”), the hook (by some guy named Glen Reynolds who clearly can’t hold a tune) is a waste, and the beat (by some guy named S1) is functional at best. But as mentioned, Talib and Kendrick both drop good verses, “My vision’s bothered by vigilantes that harbor on street corners / Try your hardest to harvest bundles of weed on ya / The starving’ll speed on ya, stampede on ya / Impede on your pockets then pee on ya.”

3. The last four songs could all have been slashed: “Before He Walked” comes with one of the worst drum sounds I’ve ever heard; “Upper Echelon” might’ve worked with a Harry Fraud regular instead of Talib Kweli; putting the album’s longest songs back-to-back was a bad idea.

4. “Rocket Ships” is one of the best RZA beats I’ve heard in a while, and the best beat on the album: he uses the same horn bleat throughout the verses, but the groovy bass line keeps things moving while thunderous drumrolls push the song over the edge. Of course, they throw in a stupid skit halfway through the song, knocking the momentum off its feet.

B-

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