There’s no doubt that underground hip-hop artist Talib Kweli’s debut on a major label is a step in the right direction for the rapper who holds his roots as important as his tenuous relationship with religion, but his latest release, Ear Drum, works against him in many ways and the strive for commercial success while being true to his origins.
Kweli’s ability to hold a steady flow, and his lyrical pairings and masterful rhyming aren’t the biggest problems with this disc, those are the somewhat generic and cliché pitfalls that only seem to hinder the everlasting stagnation of the genre. From name dropping himself and his record label, to general verses about big breasted women and how much God has provided for him. Kweli’s strengths are overshadowed by his inability to bring anything dramatically new to the table.
Never mind some truly bizarre lyrics ranging from silicon posteriors on women to the nutrition quotient of the words he’s spitting at you in a blinding pace, the album presents his best work in the first half dozen tracks and doesn’t pick up anything interesting deep into the disc at track 13 with “Hot Thing”; featuring Black Eyed Peas Will.i.am which is also the most single ready thing on the disc.
The collaborations are inspired and range from the aforementioned to Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones, and Kanye West which brings that bit of marketability and consumer attention to the album only needed that hit single with a well known mainstream artist to propel the album up the charts.
Underground fans of Kweli will no doubt find what they are looking for in Ear Drum, but for casual and indifferent fans weaned into the genre on a steady supply of 50 Cent and Ludicrous, they wont’ be able to find much here that hasn’t already been done. Those hoping Kweli’s label debut would yield a rap revolution receive nothing more than a minor uprising out of the watchful gaze of the public.