Talib Kweli: Quality

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Talib Kweli

Album: Quality
Label: Rawkus
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Talib Kweli

Album: Quality
Label: Rawkus

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Black Star's 1998 debut, Mos Def And Talib Kweli Are Black Star, helped define the goals and values of hip-hop's True School, a loose confederation of rappers, producers, and DJs who found the blueprint for conscious rap's future in the sound, spirit, and unity of the genre's past. In 2000, Kweli solidified his status as one of rap's most vital, purposeful voices with Reflection Eternal, an album-length collaboration with Cincinnati-based producer Hi-Tek. Kweli's sonic and spiritual evolution continues apace with Quality, his solo debut. The album enlists a small army of collaborators, but for once, the production-by-committee approach works, strengthening Kweli's vision rather than diluting it. Aided by kindred spirits like Jay Dee, Bilal, Mos Def, and Black Thought, Kweli continues to work from an exceptionally broad emotional palette entailing everything from the rapturous joy of parenthood to the sadness consuming the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks. The album has already scored a minor hit with "Waitin' For The DJ," but the song's deceptively carefree tone and its inclusion of trendy hit-makers Kanye West and Megahertz may be misleading: Quality is every bit as conscious and impassioned as Black Star and Reflection Eternal. Best known for his soulful production on Jay-Z's The Blueprint, West turns in some of his best work here, particularly on "Get By," a stirring track that hints at True School hip-hop's deep affinity for the uplift of gospel. Quality draws reverently from the history of black music and culture, fusing rap, soul, jazz, funk, and even a tap-dancing solo from Savion Glover into an eclectic but cohesive whole. Coming from a less accomplished performer, Quality might seem like a cocky title, but Kweli's vision and depth make it seem downright modest.

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