Talib Kweli | Prisoner of Conscious (Javotti/Capitol/EMI)

Talib Kweli_Prisoner_of_ConsciousA success story is ultimately about feeling good and celebrating each step closer to your dream, and that’s exactly what Prisoner of Conscious does.


We can always count on Talib Kweli to restore some authenticity and wisdom in hip-hop. If you want to feel where the roots of hip-hop were planted and how much it has evolved over the last 20 years, listening to Talib Kweli’s catalog will certainly guide you through the transition and wish that somewhere along the way rap hadn’t taken over. With this new album, Prisoner of Conscious, the sentiment is still the same.

As evident by the first two tracks, “Human Mic” and “Turnt Up,” this is a feel-good album you put on when you just want to reflect on life’s goodness; this is especially true on “Come Here” featuring Miguel. Behind the undertones of the Marvin Gaye–inspired melody, Kweli lyrically spills his heart to a lady in whom he has taken a great deal of interest; she’s hesitant, and so he raps, “I can tell by your hesitation there’s trust issues/ You get excited, ignite it, highly combustible/ You on a higher vibration, that’s why I fuck with you.” He also shouts out President Obama and the First Lady Michelle as Miguel croons on the chorus, “I don’t want to waste your time, baby/ I just want to make you come to me/ Comfortable baby, so come here darling, and come for me, baby/ I don’t want to waste a second longer/ I just want make you come dance with me/ Come talk to me; come here darling, and come here for me baby.”

I appreciate Kweli’s ability to be versatile as a lyricist. The Talib Kweli I’m used to is the one who ruffles your feathers and makes you think about society’s issues. “Listen” and “Hostile Gospel, Pt. 2” are among my favorites, but on Prisoner of Conscious, he also offers me a chance to connect with him.

“High Life,” with its horninfused melody, makes me feel as if I’m dancing down in the bayou enjoying life, and that’s what I love most about this song. It’s such a celebration of artistry, music, and life (of course). “Ready Set Go” featuring Melanie Fiona is one of my favorite tracks as it’s sprinkled with history and inspiration. Kweli even touches on reinvigorating hip-hop pre-Trey Songz and Drake, when it wasn’t so confusing to decipher from pop and R&B.  

Prisoner of Conscious is packed with great features, like “Push Thru” with Curren$y, Kendrick Lamar, and Glen Reynolds, during which each rapper reflects on the evolution of their life from struggle to triumph. Other standouts include “Rocket Ships” with Busta Rhymes, “It Only Gets Better” with Marsha Ambrosius, “Outstanding” with Ryan Leslie, and “Favela Love,” which brings two cultures together in music as Kweli spit verses in English and Seu Jorge sing in Portuguese.

“How she’s running these streets but still standing still?/ She needs to get up off that hamster wheel,” Kweli says as he lyrically paints the cycle of a girl who can’t seem to shake being used and abused and continues a cycle of destruction. “Delicate Flowers” addresses the conundrum of men when it comes to relationships. They meet a great girl, but they want to reap all of the benefits of sleeping with several women, so they have to decide which one they want to walk away from. Kweli concludes, “I’m sure there’s others, but I’ll never find a better…”

Abby Dodson begins the heartfelt “Before He Walked” with her ferocious vocals powering over the beat with perfection. “Like medicine in times of war, helps me get over/ The sweetest sounds I ever heard my joy, my heart, my music,” Dodson sings before St. Louis’s own Nelly passionately reflects how music changed his life for the better. Talib Kweli does phenomenally on this track, telling the story of how music can change the trajectory of your life regardless of where you come up. Music saves, and it certainly saved him.    

Prisoner of Conscious showcases Kweli as an artist you can relate to and one you can learn from. He’s the perfect combination of what this art began as: a way to give  young people a voice, and a medium for sharing the news of what is or what will be affecting them in the near future.

Overall, on Kweli’s fifth album he sends a message of hope and success. Not only can you start from the slums and make it out with a gift and intelligence; you can also help to change someone else’s life by giving them knowledge of issues like racism that still plague our nation far from the American borders. “People of color 25 percent more likely than white to face prison/ but just because the president is black there’s no more racism?/ Post-racial? More like most racial. The hate for you disgraceful/ Don’t let it take you off your base, let it motivate you./ Don’t let it overtake you, so what another cloud? Survive the storm, but riding on the beast in the southern wild.” He even takes liberty to mention modern-day activists/rebels, including Assata Shakur, Troy Davis, and Pussy Riot. But, of course, a success story is ultimately about feeling good and celebrating each step closer to your dream, and that’s exactly what Prisoner of Conscious does. |Ashley White



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