Amidst a detached fan base that was on the verge of writing him off for good, Talib Kweli, the rapper’s rapper, comes back with a strong effort with his latest offering Eardrum.
The 20-track album is filled with individual songs that are, for the most part, solid and the emcee’s best since Train of Thought.
It is the art of making an individual song, a “banger” if you will, that Talib has strived to master on Eardrum
as opposed to making a sonically cohesive masterpiece the likes of his days with Reflection Eternal, or even more recently, his download-only EP Liberation
Kweli has sought out producers and guest appearances of the highest caliber and relevance. Names like Pete Rock, the aforementioned Madlib, Just Blaze, will.i.am, Kanye West, and even former Reflection Eternal teammate Hi-Tek create individual tracks that Kweli nimbly bounces over. UGK, Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones, Musiq Soulchild, Sizzla, Lyfe Jennings, and the slick use of scat-tastic Roy Ayers sample, adorn this glitzy attempt. That’s Dirty South, 16-year old and Boho pop, neo-soul, dancehall, mainstream R&B, and Mizell Brothers-era jazz-fusion if you’re counting. Kweli certainly has all his bases covered.
Despite overly familiar rhyme styles and song structures (yet another use of a gospel hook on “Hostile Gospel Pt.1”?!?) Kweli has managed to craft some individual songs that will stand the test of time. “Say Something” features a witty and sharp Jean Grae matching the b-boy bravado of which Kweli is legendary. “Eat To Live” features great metaphor-with-a-message musings, while the Kanye West produced “In The Mood” might make you duct tape down your repeat button. Kweli has also found the proverbial “club banger” with the will.i.am produced “Hot Thing”…shameless bite of Hewlett Packard for the video notwithstanding, this song will get a happy hour on the Lower East Side jumping in no time.
At the end of the day, Kweli has got some individual songs on Eardrum that are fantastic. At 20 tracks, the album can be a sonic marathon. There is obvious filler and pandering as the KRS-led “The Perfect Beat” and “Oh My Stars”, the album’s lowlights, clearly illustrate. For some, the repetition of Kweli’s flow might seem overwhelming at over 70 minutes worth, but constant appearances from a hodgepodge of guest appearances and “hired gun” producers will ensure that a decent number of these singles will appear on your favorite ipod playlist.