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Talib Kweli: Prisoner of Conscious

talibTalib Kweli
Prisoner of Conscious
(Javotti Media/EMI Records)

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In a recent interview with CNN, Talib Kweli, 37, says socially-conscious rap can be “pretentious and corny and condescending.” Having dropped his highly anticipated fifth studio album, Prisoner of Conscious, it seems this project may be his freedom call.

With a career spanning nearly two decades, the Brooklyn-born emcee is known for his political commentary and social awareness in his rhymes, and Prisoner of Conscious is no different. There are still activists and prisoner-of-war shout-outs (see “It Only Gets Better”) and his natural way of telling stories. But this time around there are eight features on a 15-track LP, including pop music’s brightest stars such as Miguel, Melanie Fiona, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. It’s definitely more radio-friendly than previous efforts. Wu-Tang’s RZA fulfills production duties.

Kweli is known for diversified projects with alternative singer Res (Idle Worship) and DJ Hi-Tek, and Prisoner of Conscious is a play on the phrase, “prisoner of conscience,” coined to describe those jailed for their race or ideas. No longer limited to the tag fans set before him since hitting the scene in the late 90’s with the artist formerly known as Mos Def, as part of the hip-hop duo Black Star, the now married father of two hopes to step further outside the box and begin another journey in his amazing career.

“I wanted to put out an album that really can support the artist I’ve become,” he says. “I’m a touring artist. I’m an artist that’s internationally known. I’m not just a local artist at this point in my career. I’m cognizant of the fact that what I do is beyond where it started. I’m trying to reach the apex of where I am now, but without turning my back on or dismissing what I’ve done before.”

Recommended spins: “Come Here” with Miguel, “Rocket Ships” featuring Busta Rhymes, “Upper Echelon” and “It Only Gets Better” with Marsha Ambrosius.

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About ND McCray

ND McCray is a former Brooklynite, now St. Louis-based writer, penning pieces on arts, culture and other stuff.
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