Rap Trapped in Radio Silence by Jhantu Randall

I first fell in love with Taleb Kweli’s music when I heard the song Hater Playa on the Black Star album with him and Mos Def. There was something about his delivery that I just gravitated to. When I first heard the song 4 woman on his train of thought album under the group name Reflection Eternal (collaboration with him and producer Hi-Tek) where he sampled Nina Simone’s song of the same name. I’ve been a fan of his, but even though all his work is good, his album Eardrum from 2007 has always been the standout for me. That was until he released his album Radio Silence earlier this year.

Admittedly, I was a bit surprised by this release. While Kweli has never been out of the conversation for me, I was apprehensive to say he had another project that felt complete to me. Upon my first listen, my expectations were surpassed by the sound of this project. With a feature from Anderson Paak he launched this off perfectly. Kweli’s sharp and enigmatic flow seems to be able to adapt to every unique beat better than ever before. The initial standout track that caused me to rewind numerous times was the track “All of Us” featuring an immensely gifted Jay Electronica. Kweli laments on police brutality and the reality of whats going on in the current time, but it’s Jay Electronica’s verse that leaves you with goosebumps with lines like, “We’re in the last days and times/in the bible and koran the last lines where all the babies dying. Out of the matrix in a spaceship where the faith stays blind…”

From there we go onto the song “She’s my hero” where Kweli tells a story about a woman and mother who break free from an abusive relationship. As an Emcee, storytelling is a place where Kweli always rose above the rest and stood amongst a select few to me. One of the biggest surprises is an aggressive, upbeat track entitled, “Chips.” A song that braggadocios and just an onslaught of bars. Accompanying him on this track? Waka Flaka Flame. While looking damn near insane on paper, the song itself is a highlight of the album. Anybody who doubted Waka like I admittedly did is in for a huge surprise this hits you like a shot to the gut! From there he calms the tone with his song “Knockturnal” that is the perfect song to play as you drive the empty city streets in that time of night where the whole world appears to be asleep. The title track is one that blends a mysterious tempo with Kweli’s signature delivery that talks about how truth, knowledge and personal expression is being censored is one way or another. The rest of the album if filled with songs that range from loving those close to you to always staying vigilant of what may come, closing out with the “Write at Home” a track that loosely plays out like a digital diary. The best quality an artist can have is giving the illusion that they know the listener almost personally, and while he’s always been that to me, this album not only feels like a breath of fresh air but also gives proof that he is far from done. The selfish fan in me uses this as evidence that Kweli can dictate any direction that he wants to go because he’s got the skill set to not only adapt but leave his mark as well.

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