Talib Kweli

A hard-knock life? Eh, not so much. In stark contrast to so many of his fellow Brooklyn-born MCs, Talib Kweli was raised by two university-professor parents and spent part of his childhood in a posh Connecticut boarding school. As such, matters of Afrocentric conscience, not urban street survival, informed his first hip-hop efforts (mostly notably the Black Star project in the late '90s with former collaborator Mos Def). Over time, Kweli — whose solo album Eardrum debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 in 2006 — would publicly grapple with his enlightened-brother label; in an interview with Vibe magazine, he announced plans to call a future album Prisoner of Consciousness. Kweli's current project is Reflection Eternal, with longtime collaborator DJ Hi-Tek. Their Revolutions Per Minute long-play dropped this month, featuring such radio-friendly tracks as "Midnight Hour," a bouncy doo-wop dance single featuring guest vocals by hip-hop siren Estelle. If this is Kweli's way of rebranding himself as a fun guy, it ain't half bad. Certainly, Revolutions is more infectiously joyful than his craven hijacking of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" hook on the dreadful single "Steady." Yikes. Let's see him get that off his conscience.

 
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