October 14, 2004

Best duo in hip-hop
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Six years after Mos Def and Talib Kweli rightfully declared themselves "the best alliance in hip-hop," the pair has finally returned. Unfortunately the dynamic duo isn't releasing a sequel to Blackstar, but instead separate solo albums from each emcee. Since Mos and Talib parted ways their careers have headed in decidedly different directions.

Mos Def, recently nominated for an Emmy, has been focusing on his burgeoning film career, acting on Broadway and starring as Ford Perfect in the upcoming film adaptation of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In contrast, Kweli has remained on tour and in the studio, earning himself the respect of even Jay-Z, who rapped "Truth be told/ if lyrics sold/ I'd be lyrically Talib Kweli."


Mos Def "My Life"
Hip-hop heads are bitter about being forced to wait half a decade for the follow-up to Mos Def's classic debut Black on Both Sides. We expected the second coming of Christ with his recently released The New Danger, but sadly it's nothing more than a very enjoyable album that could have been better.

The vast majority of Mos Def's musical ventures since his last album have been live performances with his rock band, the Black Jack Johnson, who appear throughout the new album. As a result, for better or for worse, The New Danger sounds more like a live show than a studio creation. The music is diverse and intriguing, but unfortunately Mos Def doesn't shine lyrically as he has in the past. In fact, he eschews rapping altogether for much of the album, instead acting as lead singer and even background vocalist for his band. Nevertheless, the album is entirely enjoyable from beginning to end, though hopefully we won't have to wait until 2009 for the next one.


Talib Kweli "Beautiful Struggle"
Instead of wandering all over the musical galaxy like Mos, Talib Kweli has stuck to what he does best. Kweli isn't a charismatic crooner like Mos, but he is smart and talented emcee dedicated to sharp lyricism. While Mos was busy hosting Def Jam Poetry on HBO, Kweli released his solo debut, Quality, which earned the respect of the underground while slowly catching the attention of the mainstream.

The Kanye West-produced single "Get By" got heavy radio rotation, which apparently inspired Talib to try to reproduce his MTV success on his new album with the almost-identical single "I Try."

Beyond this, Beautiful Struggle is a very solid album, nothing more but certainly nothing less than what fans expect from Kweli. The album also marks the return of former collaborator Hi-Tek, who produced Talib's classic Reflection Eternal back when Rawkus Records, now bankrupt, was the best underground record label in hip-hop.

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