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Volume 70, Issue 53, Thursday, November 4, 2004

Life & Arts

Kweli fails to further hip-hop on 'Struggle'

By Zach Lee
The Daily Cougar

Whether or not he likes it, Talib Kweli is placed among the top political rappers today. 

Not every song is about revolution, but his pride in himself and black culture in general and his empathy for the poverty-stricken finds its way into flows that radio-friendly artists would be happy to leave barren. 

So he's up there with Mos Def as one of the hip-hop artists on the fringe of the public consciousness with a responsibility to "save hip-hop." 

It's stupid, but it's the reason backpackers will buy any CD with Kweli or Mos Def on the cover. 

By that golden standard though, The Beautiful Struggle, a Kweli album with a name inspired by a Mos Def quote, falls 

disastrously short.

Kweli makes it clear that he's not setting out to save anything, but Mos Def takes a chance to perfect hip-hop's basic elements on The Beautiful Struggle. 

"We Know" is a nice relaxed track with an oh-so-subtle head bobbing beat by Supa Dave West and the smooth voice of Faith Evans on the hook. 

Mary J. Blige provides another nice woman's touch to Kweli's sharp tongue over the piano-accented bass line of the Kanye West-produced "I Try."

Explaining Kweli's lyrics to fans is worthless -- they know what to expect, and The Beautiful Struggle won't disappoint them. 

The best lyrical sample to show to first-timers comes from one of the most powerful tracks on the album, the uplifting and sympathetic "Black Girl Pain." 

Jean Grae's guest spot doesn't hurt things, but Kweli's verse is the real draw here as he expresses his unconditional love for his daughter, "but she a Gemini, so stay on her friendly side / She'll put that look on you; it's like somebody's friend just died / My pretty black princess, smell sweet like that incense / You buy at the bookstore supporting black business." 

Talib Kweli

The Beautiful Struggle

Rawkus Records

Verdict: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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