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Nas, Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli
Nick Bean

Since his classic debut, Illmatic, Nas has been mostly coasting on his charm, his gift for public relations, and his skills as an MC. But on his latest album, Untitled, he's clearly hoping that by name-dropping big issues (reparations, single motherhood, media control) and dazzling you with his acrobatic flow ("I'm over they heads/Like a bulimic on a see-saw") you'll gloss over the fact that he's not saying anything coherent. Credit Nas for understanding that relevant pieces of art should speak to big things, and indeed Untitled—partly through its original title, Nigger—takes on the incendiary intersection of politics, race and language. Nas has a forum, passion and talent. Too bad his message is muddled.

The opposite is true of his current tourmate, Talib Kweli. Kweli's got the message, but for years has undersold, despite critical praise and a close working partnership with acts such as Kanye West, Common and Mos Def.

Putting these two acts—both of which at least aim for intelligence—on a single bill? Well, that makes for a smart pairing.


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