Seventeen years removed from their first collaborative effort, the elusive crate-digging Zeus Madlib and Brooklyn’s own Talib Kweli–the Libs–return with Liberation 2, a Luminary-only album a decade in the making.

It’s easy to imagine why the album took so long; they have been swamped since their first Liberation project. Talib (among other things) dropped a cumulative 12 projects in that time span–Madlib had closer to 20, including respective AOTY contenders Piñata and Bandana with Freddie Gibbs. But, as Kweli himself notes in the project’s press release, “Never has there been a better time for such honest, message-driven music that pays tribute to the sounds that came before us.”

Appropriately timed to Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary, the album is not only a cry for unity–something that won’t surprise Kweli fans at all–but also a great reminder of what a well-thought-out, unrushed creative process can produce.

It shouldn’t be overstated how difficult it is to craft a project over a decade, especially given how fundamentally the world has changed since 2013. Given that there were at least two trips to Africa during the creative process, among other global ideological shifts and rifts, there were a lot of opportunities for the project to splinter or grow too large in scope.

Instead, it remains concise; their journey to Africa is central to the project, notably in the international collaboration “Nat Turner,” featuring South African MC Cassper Nyovest and Seun Kuti–son of the iconic Fela Kuti. The song’s intro, a subtle nod to N.W.A.’s “Message to B.A.” and Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline” (using the same “here’s what they think about you” setup), sets the tone for what serves as the album’s most sonically menacing track, tackling oppression and race relations.

As far as guests go, curation is on point, with his son and daughter, Amani and Diani, joining him–as well as Pink Siifu, singers Meshell Ndegeocello and Goapele, Moonbyrd, the legendary Roy Ayers and more.

Most notably, Mac Miller makes a posthumous appearance, sliding over the echoey snares and booming kick of “The Right to Love Us,” and Kweli assembles underground royalty Westside Gunn and Roc Marciano for the super soulful “Richies Part Two.” These are the only two tracks that feel slightly less cohesive; while he and Mac sound great together, the verses don’t feel fully connected–the same could be said for “Richies Part Two.” All three MCs bring it (Gunn’s “Playing the mac like 300 plays the [flute]” bar is incredibly dope), yet Kweli feels slightly disconnected from their vibe. However, they are clear highlights nonetheless.

What carries this project along is the consistency both Kweli and Madlib share. On “Air Quotes,” which features his daughter Diani, he quite appropriately likens it to the difference between an artist and a content creator. While neither step out of their respective comfort zones nor traverse any surprising or unknown territory, it also means that the music feels timeless and devoid of any gimmicks or trendy timestamps.

Where the first Liberation, which in the minds of many critics and fans was a return to form for Kweli, felt more like a mixtape (a remarkably good one), this sequel feels incredibly polished; Kweli is as potent as he’s ever been–depending on what you consider his apex–and Madlib is exceptionally methodical, his upper echelon penchant for obscure samples that stitch together ideas and create transitions on full display.

The sequencing is terrific (for the best experience, start with the full album before veering off and isolating your fave tracks).

Though not quite as bright as its predecessor (songs like “Funny Money” and “Over the Counter” come to mind), it’s nowhere near as aggressive as Black Star: No Fear of Time, as Madlib’s even-keeled, soulful curation creates a vibe that is easy to run back and replay.

While it was ten years in the making, nothing feels overcooked. It doesn’t dwell too long in any one lane, so you get a little of everything–whether that’s a loving tribute to the late Biz Markie’s “Nobody Beats The Biz” rhyme pattern on “One 4 Biz” alongside Lootpack member Wildchild and Q-Tip, revisiting the “Return of the Loop Digga” concept from the Quasimoto LP Unseen on “Loop Digga’s Revenge” or even professing love. Kweli establishes just how well-rounded he remains after all these years.

Devoid of toxicity and rap-isms, this is an album built to age; in a landscape that thrives off of microwave LPs and feverish release cycles, that’s a particularly alluring approach.