Review: Talib Kweli’s, “Ear Drum”

08.15.07 10 years ago 8 Comments

Talib Kweli – Eardrum
Blacksmith Music/Warner Bros. Records
Review by Samir Siddiqui

Ever since the firing of CBS radio/television personality Don Imus, U.S.
media has been quick to point the finger at hip-hop for everything bad that
has happened in the country since. And while our friends over at Fox News
have little trouble belittling various hip-hop acts for so-called vulgarity
and misogyny, mainstream media has also knowingly blinded the American
people from the other side of hip-hop, which is painted by talented
wordsmiths such as Common, The Roots, Nas, and of course, veteran
rhyme-slayer Talib Kweli. Nearly three years after his heavily bootlegged,
somewhat under-appreciated LP The Beautiful Struggle, Talib Kweli comes to
hip-hop’s rescue with an album that mixes conscious content with mainstream

Eardrum picks up where Kweli left off with his last few releases, kicking
things off with the mellowed “Everything Plan,” which uses a well-placed
sample to compliment the expectedly sharp rhymes of Kweli, before moving
into the up-tempo “NY Weather Report,” a lyrical feast provided by Kweli,
“Revelation is first and Armageddon is after, tsunamis and hurricanes,
natural disasters/The fast food culture, speed is always a factor, instant
gratification, they want the cash faster.” After the lackluster collabo
between Kweli and Just Blaze on Talib’s last full length album (“Never Been
In Love”), “Hostile Gospel” more than makes up for it, with Just Blaze’s
layered keys, drum kicks, and gospel backing vocals matching the
high-quality lyricism from the blacksmith: “The black kids wishin’ they
white kids, when they close they eyelids, like, I bet they neighborhood
ain’t like this/White kids wishin’ they black kids, and wanna talk like
rappers, it’s all backwards, it’s identity crisis.” And although “In The
Mood” doesn’t measure up to previous collaborations between Kweli and Kanye
West, Madlib’s production on “Soon A New Day,” combined with a soft hook
from the talented Norah Jones, makes for a better soulful experience.

Talib later hooks up with longtime producer Hi-Tek on the focused “More Or
Less,” where Talib rhymes off the things which the world needs more and less
of, and “Eat To Live” is a clever comparison track, expressing a
health-conscious attitude rarely expressed in music, “They got pork in the
toothpaste, soda in the Sunny D, Jello brand gelatin is laced with the
lethetin/In Africa, they’re starvin‘, over here the food hurts you, cows
goin’ mad and the chickens got bird flu.” After an almost expectedly small
misstep on “Hot Thing,” Kweli ends things on a high note with the blazing
“Listen,” and the somber “Nature,” complimented by the soulful crooning of
none other than Justin Timberlake.

Kweli also enlists several guests (UGK, KRS-One, Musiq, etc.) to help move
things alone, but on Eardrum, nobody comes close to matching the effort put
forth by the star of the show. Having a set of production that is nothing
short of outstanding probably didn’t hurt either, but Talib Kweli has
delivered an album that any true hip-hop fan would gladly spend 15 dollars
on (yes even those of us who bootlegged Eardrum the second it dropped).
Albums don’t always have to be a “near-classic” or a “classic” to warrant an
excellent score, and in Talib Kweli’s case, you hope that when he finally
sees his latest project into stores, he can gain enough support to continue
entertaining hip-hop for years to come.

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