Review: Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious
Published on May 11th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Talib Kweli has a tremendous flow; it’s relentless, technically sound and attentive to how it bounces off its beats with internal rhyming schemes and the like. That it’s invariably a vehicle for either a socially conscious sentiment or an originally expressed boast is unfortunate on two counts: one is that it makes him predictable, the other is that it feels churlish to call him out on being socially conscious and technically adept.
It’s a tension that his fifth album Prisoner of Conscious doesn’t come any closer to resolving, irregardless of whether its title is or isn’t a self-reference. This isn’t to say that it’s not a good album – it’s well put together and frequently hits those old school sweet spots (as in old school hip-hop rather than “Old School”, the Danger Doom track that Kweli appeared on) – but it sounds just a bit flat in the wake of some of the more adventurous hip-hop records to have emerged from the last few months, like Kendrick Lamar’s and Tyler, The Creator’s.
The Black Star co-star kicks things off with ornate arrangements of classical arrangements in a way that brings to mind Nas’s Life is Good album of last year. Choice cameos are scattered across the album: Miguel on the sleek, lounging “Come Here”, Melanie Fiona on the gorgeously jazzy on “Ready Set Go”, Kendrick Lamar on the blaring “Push Thru”, Seu Jorge on the sublime “Favela Love” and the always welcome Busta Rhymes on “Rocket Ships”.
Jorge in particular capture the ears, his ‘growly Brazilian loverman’ voice combining beautifully with the track’s tooting keys and Kweli’s own agreeable vocals. Nelly, however, makes a less welcome appearance on “Before He Walked”. “Hamster Wheel” is nicely tied up in a decorative string arrangement, exemplifying how each track here has its good features; it just feels a bit too familiar and, as a result, unremarkable.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!
Prisoner of Conscious is out now on Blacksmith.
For more information, please visit the official Talib Kweli website.