Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious
Talib Kweli's new album features guest appearances from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Busta Rhymes, with beats from a wealth of up and coming producers like Oh No, S1 and LV, and with a very special cut provided by RZA. Kweli himself avoids the sometimes evangelical delivery that characterised his early records. There are reflections on what it takes to be a man, on hip-hop culture, and on love, but they lack the philosophical depth and restless, crusading passion of his early work for the most part.
Most tracks here feature guests, and not many of them offer much in the way of innovation – the beats ply a soul and funk furrow for the most part, without much aplomb, and the occasional flashes of autotune (on Push Thru, with Kendrick Lamar) or neo-soul vocals (on Ready Set Go, courtesy of Melanie Fiona) are routinely uninspired.
The RZA track, Rocket Ships, features a verse from Busta Rhymes, and is a standout, with a mutating, multi-part beat and both Busta and Kweli on point. But overall, Prisoner of Conscious suffers from either a lack of identity, failing to distinguish itself from a wide range of silver age-oriented hip-hop, or a surfeit of it; so sure of the laurels on which it rests that innovation and breaking new ground have been completely sidelined. One for the hardcore fans, who will get exactly what they pay for – business as usual, but unfortunately not a patch on the classics.