TALIB KWELI: PRISONER OF CONSCIOUS

Talib-Kweli-Prisoner-Of-ConsciousPRISONER: a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody; especially: one on trial or in prison.

CONSCIOUS: capable of or marked by thought, will, design or perception: relating to, being, or being part of consciousness <the conscious mind>

This is Talib Kweli’s dilemma. Such a credible artist and respected in the eyes of many, but they only see him as just a conscious rapper. After Black Star, Reflection Eternal, Quality, The Beautiful Struggle, Eardrum, Revolutions Per Minute and Gutter Rainbows, Kweli now wants to show a more diverse side, but still deliver that consistency that he has shown throughout, and in this album, he has succeeded…. and all without his #1 producer Hi-Tek. Is it a risky move I hear you ask? Well put it this way. Ghostface Killah has produced many albums without RZA production and look how well that turned out…

Violins and pianos kick off the album in epic fashion. Talib is preparing his ‘Human Mic’ check… great to hear that he is on top form ready to go, even paying homage to Slum Village at the end …“to take a child you gotta raise it up…raise it up…”

By the second track Kweli demands that this album be ‘Turnt Up’…. with a T!!! No shame in hearing an opera singer blasted out of your car stereo while cruising. Talib and producer Trend is those guys that can take a classic (Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full) and bring it in to 2013 in glorious Technicolor.

‘Come Here’ featuring Miguel is officially the first single from the album, it’s not exactly true and I will explain why later. This has that blend of that mature grown sound combined with that relevant, current sound that can be played in all the clubs or in your home when you’re having a romantic moment with your half, and has that potential to be a timeless classic like Snoop Dogg & Pharrell‘s Beautiful.

Talib shifts gears swiftly and lives the ‘High Life’ with Rubix & Rajah. Producer Oh No gives the track a hint of a Tribal African twist and produces a feel good sound while letting the beat ride out. Here Talib has managed to change the flow of the album without making it sound out-of-place. Rubix and Kweli go tag team in a frantic pace in one of many stand out tracks.

Talib continues to switch lanes in ‘Ready, Set, Go’ featuring Melanie Fiona. His lyrical prowess hasn’t slowed since the album started: “The deviltalib kweli try to deny us the highest of elevation/They keep us at sea level so I’m staying on my A game/They local like C when I express like the A train/My A-alikes take what I write, use it to maintain/We be alike see alike cause we got the same brain…” Then he goes on to throw darts at the mainstream as he shows them how it’s done… “Rappers nowadays are confusing you/I know you tired of the usual like Trey Songs and Drake/That’s why I’m keeping the faith/Keeping the pace although it’s all about the winning it’s never about the race…” If Drake has any Common Sense left he won’t go against Talib… see what I did there???

If Jay-Z can have a Moment Of Clarity and wanted to be lyrically Talib Kweli, then in ‘Hold It Down’, Talib returns the favor. If he was ingredients for a soup, he would be a young Raekwon, a bit of KRS-ONE, some Q-Tip, some Rakim and a bit of Ice Cube…. Talib continues to slay the rappers who think they have it held down. Then he continues to ‘Push Thru’ with Kendrick Lamar & Curren$y, in the albums many collabs with new hungry MCs. This track was actually released as a single last year, and had heads ready for the album, and after a long wait, it is well worth it.

The album has many highlights, but ‘Hamster Wheel’ might be the crowning jewel. Talib tells a story of a woman who broke up with a dude and barely escaped with her life, then finds herself involved with a guy who she thought she could confide in, but her paranoia and insecurities lead to her being put out in the streets. The heartfelt flow continues into ‘Delicate Flowers’, where Kweli speaks on women’s feelings and how men need to be careful where they walk on the minefield.

Going from smooth, heartfelt sounds to the Wu-Tang sound, Talib & Busta Rhymes spazz out on the RZA produced ‘Rocket Ships’, but’s it the ever  animated Busta who steals the show by cussing the woman for cooking pork in his house while the woman has no awareness to why pork is unacceptable in the 5%.

Talib has received flak by putting a returning Nelly on the track ‘Before He Walked’. Clearly these fans who were quick to call Kweli a ‘sell-out’ didn’t not grasp and understand the concept of the Prisoner Of Conscious. The result: a great track that is misunderstood. It is the next track ‘Upper Echelon’ that will raise heads eyebrows at first listen, but this is the sort of beat that lyrics are over looked by the casual fan. Lyrically it is amazing: “See I be listening to real sh!t/real spit/my die hards feel it/type of sh!t the fake n!**@$ find hard to deal with/I’m on a higher plane I’m destroying it while I’m building/my threat can’t be contained/so my name on Obama kill list…” How many mainstream artists you know can come with complex word play like ‘incorrigible’ and ‘valedictorian’ on a beat like this??? As I thought, not many.

‘Favela Love’ is a sure-fire single/video waiting to happen. Talib takes it to Brazil with Seu Jorge, whose native vocals are so hypnotic it puts you in another zone. This would have been nice to end the album. But Kweli goes one better.. and ‘It Only Gets Better’ with Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius. The song tells the nieve that just because there is a black man in the White House does not mean that racism no longer exists.

The iTunes version has Ryan Leslie returning the favor hoping to make an ‘Outstanding’ track with Kweli for the ladies. While this is another achievement for the pair, it just falls short of the previous collab they did called ‘I’m Ready’, not taking away from this track of course. Then there is the amazing ‘Can’t Barely Breathe’. I have to criticise Talib for making this a bonus track and not on the physical copy but I understand.

Prisoner Of Conscious has just entered Talib Kweli into the Album Of the Year 2013 race. There are not many who can test Kweli’s complex lyrical wordplay, over tracks that keep him current, at the same time delivering fresh sounds, and real life stories. Even the physical copy has one of the best inlays that hip hop has seen in long while, from his name written in Arabic to the different definitions of the album’s title. This is a definite purchase in either physical or digital, anything less makes you a Prisoner of Ignorance.

GHOSTFACE KILLAH & ADRIAN YOUNGE: TWELVE REASONS TO DIE

Ghostface Killah 12 ReasonsIt has been, 13 long years, since Ghostface Killah worked closely with RZA on an album project…. and that album just happened to be Supreme Clientele, which still stands today as arguably his best album. Since then Ghost has been consistently dropping quality material under almost as much aliases as fellow clan member Method Man. You heard him as Tony Starks, Pretty Toney, even Ghostdini  – some fans wasn’t keen on his trip through Emerald City when he went the R&B route but kept it gully at the same time. But we haven’t really heard the true aura of the Ghostface Killah. Together, Ghostface, RZA and music composer Adrian Younge take you on a murder revenge journey thriller. If you thought Ghostface was all about getting ‘Back Like That’ with Ne-Yo, this album ain’t for you!! Get ready folks, this is a story of one man who people tried to kill, but then when he finds you one by one and throws his Ghostface killing plate at you…. that’s yo’ @$$!!!!

The album starts with a haunting theme sung by a female vocalist in ‘Beware Of The Stare’. This gives you fair warning that Ghostface is the Baddest Man Alive…. it gives you that intro that if done visually, shows random images of sadistic killings. In fact that is the idea of this album, made as if it was a film…. Vintage RZA traits shown by Mr Younge.

In ‘Rise Of The Black Suits’, Ghost goes in ‘Fishscale’ mode, as he tells the story of how he got brought up in a life of crime and then goes on to start his Wu-Gambinos… Younge keeps with the Wu-Tang sound on this one, either that or RZA lent a helping hand on the production….and because the Jay DeLuca’s did him wrong, Masta Killa is sympathetic to Ghost as he cries ‘I Declare War’ as they head to battle for supremacy. Only three tracks in, and Masta Killa hits the nail on the head when he describes the clan’s abbott as ‘RZA Tarantino‘.

Younge turns up the flow as Ghostface, Inspectah Deck & U-God spills ‘Blood on the Cobblestones’. U-God’s flow is as ferocious as it ever was, whereas Deck is more of a torturous type… “So the DeLuca’s want Tone, nah not today/cock and spray, side with him and ya got to pay/Don’t even kill him, just make him feel a lot of pain/Stake out his wife and his seed at the soccer game…”

In ‘The Center Of Attraction’, Love is blind… even if your name, is Ghostface Killah. So in love with his significant other it seems, that even Cappadonna can’t convince him that she is setting him up for his own demise. Now it seems that there are ‘Enemies All Around Me’ in Ghostface’s mind… even doubting his own clan. Then the sh!t hits the fan when he gets ‘An Unexpected Call (The Set Up)’ when that same woman he loved, who he thought loved him, the same woman Cappadonna warned him… had indeed set him up and was in cahoots with the Delucas, and left him for dead.

RZA does a great job in narrating the story just like he did in his film ‘Man With The Iron Fists’ (which is also reviewed in RePPiN 4U,) the DeLucas wasn’t ready for what would come next… Toney puts the mask back on and brings back the true aura of the Ghostface Killah, while DJ Mekalek drops the good ol’ cuts. If you are a fully pledged Christian, the video below is not for you! ‘The Rise of the Ghostface Killah’ doesn’t bust his gun. Instead he will use knives and other sadistic ways to murder his victims. Even the spirit of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard is felt here in this track.

‘Revenge Is Sweet’ is that demented Alfred Hitchcock psycho piano music. The spine chilling vocals of Saudia Mills and Loren Oden will have the most notorious gangs shook. While Killarmy’s Killa Sin laughs at his prison sentence he may receive with assisting the Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa brings his machete to the dance… “Yes, but what they didn’t expect/a hundred goons from the projects/Armed and masked with flame throwers and gas/I blast anything/ hung him by his tongue ring/Until he gave the info/on how he find his kinfolk…”

…then in what is arguably the highlight of the album, the clan cut ‘Murder Spree’ has Ghost, U-God, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck & Killa Sin doing just that. Consider this a taste of what is to come on the new Wu Album coming later this year. In fact consider it the clan’s revenge to the wack hip pop dominating the radio. Even the might of the Slaughterhouse was short-lived especially when Joe Budden tried to go against the clan… that’s career suicide.

‘The Sure Shot’ gives you that ol’ school boom bap flava. Younge takes another note out of RZA’s production book by switching beats halfway through the track. Ghost finally gets his hands on the woman who set him up for dead, contemplating her end, perhaps a fate worse than death…“Got Logan still to deal with/should I kill her?/Throw her f**k!ng @$$ in the cage with a gorilla/Or let her live, then treat her like, scum of the earth…” The last track, “Twelve Reasons To Die”, has the people who heard the tale think twice about double-crossing someone like this, and encourages you not to weep for the dead, in this case the DeLucas. Younge lets the piano ridden track ride out to the end. You can imagine the credits going up as the tale reached its climax. What more can I say about Ghostface Killah? He just took his storytelling to a new level, coming with a concept that actually fits the true aura,00ghostfacekillahandapo and telling a story with start to finish, staying with one producer who has learnt well from ‘RZA Tarantino’, and kept the guest appearances purely clan affiliated. The Deluxe Edition includes an instrumental version of the album, and even producer Apollo Brown has created his version of the event entitled ‘The Brown Tape’, which is equally as good, his version of Murder Spree is absolutely amazing. So with this, Masta Killa’s ‘Selling My Soul’, and Allah Mathematics ‘The Answer’, why have Twelve Reasons To Die when you can have Twelve Reasons To Live to see A Better Tomorrow? (See what I did there??)