Review: Talib's Ear Drum, More Than An Earful

Ear Drum

Today is the day. Tuesday August 21st, 2007. One of the most anticipated hip-hop records drop in stores. Stop reading this right now, run out and purchase Talib Kweli's Ear Drum right now. If you listen to hip-hop, and it isn't in your top 5 for albums this year, I would like to know what type of cave you live in. A re-occurring theme in the cd is a criticism that Talib and I'm sure other emcees have heard throughout their careers. You know, when somebody is telling you how to flow. What to say and what not to say. In "Everything Man", Talib let's the fans and new listeners know that he can't please everyone and that's the curse of all artists. He continues his legendary flow on "NY Weather Report" over another head-nodder with lyrics that explain his journey as the BK emcee. The choir-backed "Hostile Gospel part 1" is a preacher's banger where the listener phonetically absorbs 5 minutes of truth. So slap yourself upside the head if you've been acting up.

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"Say Something" gives you a shot of Blacksmith with Jean Grae. Jean and Talib are ready for all challengers. Just say the word. "Country Cousins" which features UGK and Raheem Devaughn also appears on UGK's Underground Kingz (August 7th). A smooth track to say the least rounded off by vocalist Raheem Devaughn. I can't lie, I think of bbq's. Er, I mean cookouts. "Holy Moly", Talib is really tugging on the gospel theme. Where "Hostile Gospel" wags the finger at people in general, "Holy Moly" beats up against what we call the wackness. "Eat To Live" gives you an unfortunate situation that we're all dealing with. Food. The food here in the states is dangerous (E.coli, Mad Cow, Obesity, Diabetes, etc.), and the price of it still rises, and on the other side of the world, they're starving! What to do? I say all of this while I'm dreaming of McNuggets. When I first heard "In The Mood" it was the version without Kanye. The second time I heard it, Kanye had added a verse and put it on his Can't Tell Me Nothing Mixtape. Being that an advance copy of Ear Drum hit the streets and the net about a month ago, maybe this combination of both versions is the result. Either way I'm not mad. Hot track.

When was the last time you heard Norah Jones? Oh January (Not Too Late). On the Madlib-produced "Soon The New Day", Talib and Norah paint a picture of Talib's nightlife (gettin' up with the ladies). Coi Mattison & Lyfe Jennings team-up with Kwe on "Give Em Hell", another track tip-toeing around the theme of religion. Talib raps about his battles with blind faith and realizations. It's Reflection Eternal and Dion on "More Or Less", Talib gives you an idea of what would a better world through his eyes. In "Stay Around", Talib returns to the topic present in "EVerything Man". And "Hot Thing" is the single featuring that you've been seeing all over the net. I don't know if you hear it on the radio, since I haven't listened to the radio in 7 years. *shrugs*. That joint is hot! If you don't like this song, you have no soul. The Space Fruit Interlude by Sa-Ra is just that. Harmonizing. KRS-One and Talib track the journey of all emcees to find "The Perfect Beat" to snap to. On "Oh My Stars", Musiq Soulchild lends his vocals to give depth to Talib tales of woo. "Listen!!!" is the official end to the cd where it prompts to everybody with an ear to pay attention to the man on the soapbox. It's not Huey Freeman, it's Talib Kweli.

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I've seen a bunch of bonus tracks pop up behind this cd. "Go With Us" (feat. Strong Arm Steady), "Hostile Gospel part 2" (feat. Sizzla) and "The Nature" (feat. Justin Timberlake) seem to be the official ones. Strong Arm Steady and Talib Kweli is a 4-minute barrage of spittin' on a crew deep-type posse cut. Sizzla and a different beat give this Hostile Gospel another dimension. Still in the realm of the religious. "The Nature" is one of the most significant tracks on the album. Timberlake and Kweli get together and talk about the nature of people in general which can be summed up in the chorus:

"it's hard to keep faith in the things that you do, when everybody turns their back on you."

Talib Kweli is the quintessential artist of this era. Giving, Giving, and Giving. He drops classic bars, over seriously soulful beats, tours constantly to give his fans a live show, and if you like free99 then you didn't miss his Liberation collab cd with Madlib he released earlier this year. What else could you want? Purists may take a stance against all of the co-stars on the album. In the past, too many co-stars can ruin the album or even overpower the emcee (Busta Rhymes' "The Big Bang"). But as you can see here and in other examples (Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life") it isn't always about overpowering. It's about chemistrAs far as the soulful, melodic, and lyrically intrepid Ear Drum is considered, it should be locked down as one of Talib's greatest records, definitely in the top 5 of this year. And possibly one of the best records in hip-hop history. A definite buy.

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