Talib Kweli

Eardrum (Warner Bros. Records)

"Conscious rap" needs to be eliminated from hip-hop's vernacular—or at the very least, Talib Kweli's name should be stricken from its rolls. Nobody's quite sure what the term means: Music that doesn't focus on rims and butts? Songs wherein the listener's life isn't explicitly threatened? Kweli has said he doesn't like being pigeonholed by the term, and the release of his sixth solo album, Eardrum, seems an appropriate time to let him go. Eardrum is a heaping mess, neither smart nor groundbreaking, and loaded with clichés. "It's been a long journey, but they say that life's path is not about the destination, it's all about the journey," Kweli informs us on "NY Weather Report." Later we learn that if you can make it in New York City, "you can make it anywhere." "More or Less" catalogs how he feels about a number of mundane issues: "More building, less destroying," then "more marijuana, less coke, more freestyles, less written, more history, less mystery, more Beyoncé, less Britney," and "more happiness, less misery" would be neat. (Gee, thanks.) However, Eardrum does boast top-notch production, and Kweli's adroit flow almost makes up for his crap lyrics. Abandon the shrill platitudes, buddy; they're about as effective as an abstinence campaign.

 
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