Bump It Softly
Talib Kweli, half of Black Star with Mos Def and the head of Blacksmith Records, has an extensive resume filled with experience in the hip-hop and R&B communities. This is highlighted on Kweli’s third solo album Eardrum, produced with Hi-Tek and featuring some of Blacksmithâ€šÃ„Ã´s own artists, including Jean Grae. Kweli also works closely with will.i.am, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, and Norah Jones on standout tracks. The album itself is lengthy compared to most in the hip-hop genreâ€šÃ„Ã®about 80 minutesâ€šÃ„Ã®and utilizes most of the time spitting lyrical combinations that seem to come natural to this New York native. Although â€šÃ„ÃºListen!!â€šÃ„Ã¹ surfaces late on the album, it demands attention as Kweli chants, â€šÃ„ÃºTalib Kweli banginâ€šÃ„Ã´ on your eardrum.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Indeed, finding a track that does not incorporate this artistâ€šÃ„Ã´s name or label is hard to come by.
Beyond mainstream radio hit â€šÃ„ÃºHot Thing,â€šÃ„Ã¹ Eardrum contains the essentials of a good hip-hop album with strong lyrics, beat, rhyme, and delivery. Kweli tends to blur the line that separates hip-hop and R&B with his soft, easygoing vocals coupled with minimal references to gangster life and the rare use of profanity. Kweliâ€šÃ„Ã´s voice is reminiscent of Mobb Deep, and influences from Kanye West can be found throughout the album.
Eardrum includes the inspirational â€šÃ„ÃºOh My Stars,â€šÃ„Ã¹ with lyrics that encourage the listener to live to their fullest ability and a sound amplified by guest Musiq Soulchild: â€šÃ„ÃºFollow your heart and you can do it all / Baby youâ€šÃ„Ã´re a star.â€šÃ„Ã¹ â€šÃ„ÃºStarsâ€šÃ„Ã¹ is only one of the gospelesque tracks on the album, as both parts of â€šÃ„ÃºHostile Gospelâ€šÃ„Ã¹ also create a heavenly sentiment.
The album uses creative samples and teamwork (although it’s not overdone like West’s material) but it starts to get ubiquitous and monotonous. Eardrum may find a spot on the CD shuffle, but Kweli needs to push the envelope to reach an even broader audience.