Without a doubt, Brooklyn's most prolific, political emcee of all time, Talib Kweli returns with his fourth LP, this time though, it's a "solo" project. As Kweli can be heard rhyming, I ain't commercial or underground, it's true," he tries to find a balance between the two to avoid conflict. Entering the industry as an underground artist, Kweli was quick to garner a faithful following and the well deserved attention of the streets. Though, due to faulty promotion by a weakening label (Rawkus Records), Talib had not hit his potential in sales. Far talented than what soundscan had accounted for, Kweli took on this project with one thing in mind, reaching out to the larger audience without losing his faithful while maintaining his musical style. On Quality, it's the same old-school coarse voiced, complex, multi-syllabic verse dropping emcee, except this time around, Kweli brings in some heavy hitters to handle guest appearances and production duties. And the key fact to recognize here is that unlike many rappers, Kweli refuses to, and never sells out. Talib brings the same elements he displayed on Reflection Eternal, the political songs, the socially aware (including the romance crap) songs, and the battle tracks. In addition, Kweli adds a new dimension to his music as he utilizes big name producers to provide the adrenaline rush evoking beats it takes to create party jams.
"Waitin' for the DJ" featuring Bilal is a smooth foot tapping, hip rotating crowd pleaser with fun lyrics. "Guerilla Monsoon Rap," produced by Roc-A-Fella hit maker Kanye West will have you jumping, as Pharohe Monch, Black Thought, and Kweli tear up a long looped, enchanting array of violin notes intertwined with solid drums and clattering snares. For his other party cut, "Put it in the Air," Talib Kweli collaborates with well respected West Coast veteran, DJ Quick. This collaboration not only proves to be grounds for a dope song, but also garners the interest and attention of a completely different group of listeners, west coast, g-funk hip hop heads
The battle ready, punch line frenzy that is "Rush," produced by Megahertz seems to display the part of Kewli that is responding to every single beef that has arisen since Train of Thought back in 2000 with lines such as, "You ain't tight, your rhymes is like what a child writes/ When he can't spell, you chase crumbs and get ate like Han-sel/ Can't hold your mic, like your liquor, your style like an Amstel." "Talk to You" featuring the smooth, silky voiced Bilal is an Eddie Kendrick's remake with romance being the main topic. "Won't You Stay" is a vulnerable composition exploring issues of romance in life with the help of Kendra Ross' silky, sexy vocal chords. Res brings adds an interesting dimension to "Where do we Go," and Novel and Vinia Mojica inspire the desire for social change over the Jay Dee produced melody, "Stand to the Side." Finally, "Joy" featuring Mos Def is a heart warming, fresh tale of the birth of his two children
If there is any problem with Quality, it can be found on the political tracks where it seems Kweli is trying to address to many issues at once or saying too much per breath. On "The Proud," we find Kweli diving into post 911 matters, criticizing police for killing his people for so many years while questioning whether or not they deserved to be as celebrated as they were for their supposed "heroics" during 911. Though, at the same time, he credits those he feels deserves respect and honor, such as the rescue workers, firefighters and volunteers, all the while also finding room to incorporate an attack on blind patriotism. This is what makes "Get By" the standout track. Besides the complex African melodies mixed in with a powerful piano loop and a booming church type chorus, Kweli focuses on one issue lyrically, and that is what people have to do to make it in this world should be respected.
The main thing this album lacks is beats courtesy of Hi-Tek, but nonetheless, kudos to Talib Kweli for accomplishing what he wanted to do. No doubt this album will get attention from both sides, his cult following, as well as the mainstream.