Common and Talib Kweli

March 25

Those hip-hop enthusiasts (or heads, as they're often known) left invigorated but not entirely satisfied by the Roots and Cody Chesnutt's joint appearance at Gypsy Team Room earlier this month should make their way to the same venue Tuesday night for performances by Common and Talib Kweli. Like a more deliberate version of the Roots' Phrenology, Common's Electric Circus attempts to make live-band psychedelia out of hip-hop's raw materials, slathering lots of technicolor guitar squall, juicy keyboard hum and complicated backing vocals over principal producer ?uestlove's bare-bones boom-bap. Sonically, it's an impressive effort from a rapper who hasn't always placed a premium on impressive sonics, but lately Common's been catching flak from detractors (or haters, as they're often known) for letting his lyrics slide, a claim Electric Circus can't definitively refute. ("People say, 'I got soul, look at all the records I hold,'" he sniffs on "I Am Music," a cool Dixieland duet with Jill Scott that only really demonstrates how fun listening to records is.) While this is a bad thing, I keep having fun listening to the record. Same goes for "Waitin' for the DJ," the utterly confused lead single from Kweli's recent Quality--it's an unapologetic party jam (complete with a keening Bilal on the hook) that also wants to say something profound about how meaningful listening to records is. The whole album's similarly stuck between substance and style, but the labor-pains travelogue "Joy" is the tenderest hip-hop track about fatherhood not by Eminem I've heard in a long while: "Having children is the best feeling in the world!" Kweli beams in the liner notes. Things fall apart, sure; they also come back together.

 
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