Talib Kweli’s made a name for himself by carving out what was coined as “conscious rap.” On his latest mixtape effort “Right About Now,” released by Koch and Blacksmith, Kweli displays his trademark flow with more confidence than ever. Much like he’s done with Blackstar and Reflection Eternal, Kweli manages to create interesting, inspirational and socially aware music. Once again going the independent route, Talib gets some help from friends and bangs out an LP to show people he hasn’t lost his touch.
Lyrically, Kweli has always been strong. On “Roll Off Me,” and “Flash Gordon,” Kweli shows that hasn’t changed a bit. Using similes and metaphors that few can match, the BK Emcee flows through the drums with conviction. On the solo-tip, Kweli holds his own. Specifically, “Right About Now” and “Two & Two” show Kweli’s versatile style. On this album he goes from socially conscious story teller to romantic gentleman. One highlight on the CD is “Ms. Hill,” an open letter to The Miseducated One: Lauryn Hill. Here, the emcee pleads for a return from Ms. Hill and sends out love and affection (with great detail), to the singer all over a wonderfully sped-up sample.
With help from long-time comrade Mos Def, he gives a glimpse of the Blackstar reunion fans have been waiting for on “Supreme (Side to Side).” Using an effortlessly ill flow, Mos Def provides powerful verses. Kweli matches it word-for-word as they trade lines and combine to become a powerful duo, proving the chemistry has not been lost between these two emcees.
Mos ain’t the only guest, though. Jean Grae makes her Blacksmith debut on “Where Ya Gonna Run.” Over a compelling soulful sample, Grae and Talib discuss plans of moving up in the game. Strong Arm Steady representatives and Planet Asia give the album some nice West coast flavor on “Drugs, Basketball & Rap.” Up-and-coming emcee Papoose drops a rhyme on “The Beast” claiming he’s deep and begging others to “abolish cause [they] ignant.” Among these underground sensations, MF Doom drops a verse on “Fly That Knot” full of his customary lines and unique style over some fresh horns.
Fresh is a nice way to describe the production here. “Right About Now” is a great concoction of funk and rock perfect for Kweli’s trip down memory lane. “Flash Gordon,” and “Where Ya Gonna Run” supply a nice smooth and soulful rhythm to the album. While Kweli shows he can rap over up-tempo beats like “Supreme,” and “Fly That Knot,” he’s better when being meditative over soothing beats. Still, his growth is noticeable and it’s nice to hear variety in his production so there aren’t too many weaknesses aside from the dreadful “Who Got It.”
Some may think his step back into the independent world is a downgrade. On “Right About Now,” Kweli seems to be free of anxiety, and free of any pressure from the label. Granted, there are still some flaws, but overall, it just seems like he’s happier and ready to bring some illness into the rap world. Hearing him with Mos, and anticipating further work with Grae and Doom, Talib Kweli could just be getting started. (Oh, and if he ever gets a collaboration with Ms. Hill, that’d be dope, too.) This mixtape is a taste of what’s to come from Talib.