November 9th, 2007
Artist: Talib Kweli
Label: Warner Bros.
Catalog No: 277244
Eardrum is the third solo album from Brooklyn based rapper Talib Kweli. Kweli debuted with a string of singles on Rawkus Records in the late 1990s. In 1998, he and partner Mos Def combined to form Black Star and released Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star to rave reviews. Kweli next formed Reflection Eternal with DJ Hi-Tek and released Train of Thought in 2000. This release completed Kweli’s movement from the underground to the mainstream, due to a couple of successful singles. 2002 saw the release of his first solo album, Quality, which lived up to its title and proved that he could succeed as a solo artist. His second solo album, Beautiful Struggle (2004), was met with mixed reviews. After three years of sparse activity, Eardrum is Kweli’s comeback album.
The CD opens with “Everything Man,” on which Kweli spits beautifully over a smooth Madlib beat. On “Say Something,” Will.I.Am’s hot beat provides the backdrop for Kweli’s rapid-fire battle rhymes. “Country Cousins” is a pleasant surprise as Kweli rhymes along with Texas gangsta rappers UGK. This seemingly awkward grouping comes together very well on what proves to be one of the album’s strongest tracks. The song also illuminates Kweli’s ability to step out of his comfort zone, as well as his growth as an artist. “In the Mood” is a well executed “love song” featuring and produced by hip hop superstar Kanye West. “Soon the New Day” is the album’s best track as Talib Kweli, vocalist Nora Jones, and producer Madlib collaborate to make an absolutely superb song. A re-energized KRS-One joins Kweli on the banging “The Perfect Beat.” Other notable tracks include “Listen,” “More or Less,” “Oh My Stars,” and “Hot Thing.”
This album is not without a few missteps. The two Pete Rock produced songs, “Holy Moly” and “Stay Around,” are underwhelming considering how brilliant both Pete and Talib typically are. “Hostile Gospel pt. 1” (produced by Just Blaze) and “The Nature” (featuring Justin Timberlake) are also a bit stale.
Overall, Eardrum is one of the best hip hop albums of the year and possibly Talib Kweli’s best solo album. He exhibited much growth on this release, and his willingness to take risks is very impressive. Hopefully, Kweli will maintain this level of quality on his future releases.
Posted by Langston Collin Wilkins
Review Genre(s): Rap and Hip-Hop