The Beautiful Struggle
If skills sold, truth be told/I'd probably be lyrically Talib Kweli." So rhymed Jay-Z on "Moment of Clarity," a track off last year's The Black Album. Given the boastful nature of the game, that Jay-Z, one of the best rappers of his generation, should give such props to another emcee says a lot about Kweli's talent. On Kweli's second solo CD (he also released two discs as part of the duos Black Star and Reflection Eternal), the son of Brooklyn demonstrates why he has earned bragging rights as one of hip-hop's premier lyricists. Indeed, Struggle is—no contest—the rap album of the year. Kweli, whose name means "student of truth" in Arabic, spits rhymes that are unusually heady and refreshingly honest. The killer single "I Try," featuring Mary J. Blige wailing the chorus over a Latin-tinged groove courtesy of producer Kanye West, sets the lyrical tone: "Life is a beautiful struggle/People search through the rubble for a suitable hustle." Decidedly anti-gangsta and anti-bling, Kweli poignantly addresses the struggles of everyone from AIDS orphans in Sierra Leone to the everyday people living "Around My Way" (a pop-flavored cut that deftly samples the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"). Going against rap's misogynistic tendencies, he shows love for sisters on the heart-felt "Black Girl Pain" ("This is for Aisha/This is for Kashera/This is for Khadijah/Scared to look up in the mirror") and, on the sweetly soulful "We Know," tells his lady that "I write my lyrics to you, you're the perfect instrumental." • DOWNLOAD THIS: "Black Girl Pain"