The Beautiful Struggle
The New Danger
Earlier this year, Kanye West’s The College Dropoutproved that hip-hop moralizing didn’t have to be dull-or, for that matter, particularly moral. On “Get Em High,” Kanye enlisted the straitlaced Talib Kweli to help him woo a potential hookup. Kweli humbly assented-“You twistin’ my arm / I’ll assist with the charm”-and delivered what turned out to be one of his breeziest performances.
It’s clear that the favor sparked a fever in Kweli. While his 2002 solo debut, Quality, cautiously courted the mainstream, he’s made mass appeal Job No.1 of late, rhyming on mix tapes alongside D-Block bruiser Styles P and on “Close Edge,” also a variation on “The Message”-Mos rhymes with Biggie-esque acuity: “You ended up dumb, famous, and gone / Your people shouting out your name in they song / Stop with the nonsense, like ‘He conscious’ / I’m just awake, dog.”
In a world where 50 Cent name-drops Kweli, Mos Def wants to keep the line between indie hip-hop and major-label rap nice and blurry. The radio-ready sin jam “Sex, Love & Money” throbs with fat horn stabs and flute runs, and “Ghetto Rock” pairs classic boom-bap with needling guitar à la “99 Problems.” Quoting Trick Daddy, then boasting, “The haters can’t fuck with it / ‘Cause they mom and they sister and they girl in love with it,” Mos proves that you don’t have to play to the haters to play the game.Grades: Talib Kweli, B+;
Mos Def, B