Last week, I discussed Common’s ascension into mainstream culture, and how he compared to his fellow “backpackers.” Almost coincidentally, Talib Kweli readied the release of Eardrum, a collection of songs he released through his MySpace page as well as songs that could have / would have / should have but didn’t become singles. Yet, the product of this past year and the constant push-backs show the growth Talib Kweli’s shown since Quality.
Unlike other artists, he never missed a step. His last album, Liberation with Madlib, was free and readily available to the public via Internet. He’s kept constant visibility through innovative marketing and appearances in nearly every city in the world, it seems. Eardrum is a growth of sorts for him, as it contains the smooth sound engineering of rap records from mainstream artists, but has the earthy and hard hitting tone of his previous work.
He gets in touch with his core fans with an intro from the critically acclaimed poet Sonia Sanchez on “Everything Man,” a Madlib-produced song. The album then jumps into “NY Weather Report,” a Nick Speed-produced song reaffirming his swag and style many of his fans have come to love. Songs like “Say Something” with the lyrically intense Jean Grae (and that’s a compliment) in the beginning set a great tone for the album. These songs serve to reintroduce the world to Talib Kweli and his Blacksmith movement.
At his best, he can interweave his personal experiences with any subject he chooses. He delves deeply into the religious with songs like “Hostile Gospel Pt. 1” and “Holy Moly.” He discusses romance and spits something to the ladies on “Hot Thing,” featuring and produced by will.i.am, and “In The Mood,” featuring the legendary Roy Ayers and an impressive verse and beat by Kanye West. He also discusses the state of the world around him in “More or Less” (Hi-Tek produced), “Eat to Live,” and “Hostile Gospel Pt. 2” (DJ Khalil produced with a surprising Sizzla feature).