Prisoner of Conscious. This is what people think of Brooklyn MC Talib Kweli, and he wanted to break out of this box. This album is more personal which was his intention but his conscious focus and brilliant lyricism remain. With Prisoner of Conscious he wanted to create an album that would stand the test of time and speak to people. Not only does this album meet its goal by retaining Kweli’s signature flow, witty and poignant lyrics, and classic beats but it is also packed with awesome guest spots.
“Intro” is the intro to the song “Human Mic” and the rest of the album. It is literally a human mic. This is a recording of Talib Kweli addressing a crowd at Occupy Wall Street. Due to noise ordinances they could not use microphones so the speaker, Kweli would say a line and the crowd would echo and amplify it. The power of this moment can be heard in Kweli’s voice and flows straight into the second track, “Human Mic” Although this album is supposed to be less conscious, at the end of the day, it is a Talib Kweli album so that is not likely. Being a conscious rapper just comes out of him. His style can be described in his own words, “I kill it the hardest. Competition dearly departed. They feeling some sort of way ‘cuz my flow revealing the garbage.”
“Turnt Up” is the next song and one of Kweli’s favorite songs on the album, especially the second verse, I especially like the line highlighting his skills on the mic, “Alliteration is literally littered through my DNA.” The song is as fun as he promises.
The next song is basically a product of American Gangster. “Come Here” was produced by Sean C and L.V. of Grind Music, who did the music of American Gangster. The song sounds reminiscient of many of those tracks, most notably in my mind, one of my favorite songs, “Party Life”. It also features one of R&B’s hottest acts and most talented vocalists, Miguel. This song has a sexy groove to it.
“High Life” feat. Rubix and Bajah gives me the same vibe that some of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne‘s best tracks did. MCs rapping in a call and response, back and forth style. It works to great effect here as well. The horn section in this song is also spectacular. The next tune is “Ready Set Go” feat. Melanie Fiona. Talib had worked with Melanie Fiona in the past and knew he would make a gem with her at some point in the future. It is a nice collaboration, the hook sounds sweet with Fiona’s distinct vocals and he crushes the verses as usual.
“Hold It Now” was originally a lot longer but Talib thought it was a little too hard and didn’t fit the feel of the album but he loved the track so much that he wanted at least some of it here. Maybe the rest of the track could show up as a Pt. 2 on a future release. Here’s hoping. You know the song is fire when it references Mumm-Ra, the sun god and then drops this line, “Seen the show, you know I make the people move like an eviction notice. I’m focused, I’m like Moses when the mic is on, that’s why these rappers scatter like roaches when the light is on.” “Push Thru” feat. Curren$y, Kendrick Lamar and Glen “Grey” Reynolds was recorded like two years ago but it still feels at home here and like one of Talib’s classic tracks.
“Hamster Wheel” is a part of a series of stories Talib has been telling about young oppressed women throughout his career. He is giving a cautionary tale for women to “…get up off the hamster wheel,” that cycle of mediocrity that leads ladies to feel like this, “First time she felt like a woman was when a dude screamed ‘nice ass’ out the car window driving past.” It is hard not to feel like that when the young men that pursue them think like this, “Yo, these swallows is horny like Charlie Parker. Be cutting ’em cause I’m studying these birds like ornithology. Follow ’em when they tweeting, holler instead of speaking.” He subtly argues that women deserve so much more than that.
“Delicate Flowers” sounds like a love letter to his girl. He uses this as a chance to introduce some of his thoughts on love and relationships and be more personal. “Rocketships” feat. Busta Rhymes is a cool track that was produced by RZA. It is always good to hear Busta and both he and Talib have great verses on this one.
A track featuring Nelly might feel a little out of place but “Before He Walked” feat. Nelly and Abby Dobson feels right at home on this disc. Talib respects Nelly for his love of music and his work ethic and that mutual respect is reflected on this track. Nelly talks about how much music means to him, “Music saves me, swooped in like the navy, put a lifetime of scars all in sixteen bars. So I took the vow and made music my life, yep, I proposed and made music my wife.” Talib echoes the sentiment and how much he gives to provide this, “You download it for free but what I create is sacred. It cost you nothing but I pay to make it, trust me.” Even Abby Dobson gets in on the power of music, “Like a medicine in times of war, helps me get over, the sweetest sounds I ever heard, my joy, my life, my music,” on as she croons powerfully on the hook.
“Upper Echelon” is a great song that feels like different but at same time feels like it fits in on this album due to Kweli’s flow and indepth lyricism. “Favela Love” feat. Seu Jorge” talks about the famed Brazilian neighborhoods that he loved. Talib also talked about wanting to work with Seu Jorge, the product of their collaboration makes it easy to understand why he was so excited about the opportunity.
I love the album’s finale,”It Only Gets Better” feat. Marsha Ambrosius. It is my favorite track on the album. The music and the message are on point. J Cole produced the beat. The beat and flow on this show is so infectious. I also love the message that although life can be tough it can also be amazing and hard times will get better, “I relate to you, you gotta pay your dues, when the time is right you gotta make a move. Your job is what you get paid to do, your call is what you’re made to do. I got faith in you, you’re gonna make it through,” and “‘stead of talking bout how stressed you are, should be talking bout how blessed you are.” I love the uplifting message of the song.
This album is well worth your time and money and is another gem in Talib Kweli’s formidable discography. Pick it up!