album reviews: It’s Christmas time in Hollis Queens…2 hip hop gifts

*** 1/2

One thing that made Reflection Eternal (Talib’s first LP) such a refreshing break from the standard hip-POP routine was the solid production by Hi-Tek. A rapper/producer combination of this caliber had not been seen since Gangstarr. After observing the success and respect that Premier and Guru had collected over the past decade, one has to wonder: what would make someone want to change from that successful format? Quality is Kweli’s answer. This answer should only receive half credit, seeing as Kweli labels himself nothing more than an MC, and this album is trying to accomplish more than one MC can handle. The lack of continuity on the album is far more apparent when doing the habitual “scan” after picking the album up, then letting the album ride all the way through. Still, even after a thorough listening, one cannot help but wonder if Kweli took some kind of Greyhound tour of a bunch of East Coast studios, laid some rhymes down in each of them, then said, “Yo, this is some quality shit!” Because that, not counting the DJ Quik-produced “Put it in the Air,” is basically the sound and feel of the album. For better or worse, ten different producers on a 15-track album do nathan to lend to flow, something Talib is undeniably blessed with. Quality is not a bad album, nor is it a flawless piece of “quality.” What Quality is, is a very spirited effort by Kweli to branch out, without taking a good look at how far from the tree he has strayed. Still, there are some standout tracks that make nearly any imperfections on the album seem insignificant, for instance: “Guerilla Monsoon Rap,” “The Proud” (minus the chorus), “Get By” (minus the R&B), “Gun Music” (minus the beat)- ok, well…

The Lost Tapes

Every time you put this on, you will wonder, “How the hell could Nas have lost ‘Doorags’?” This first track does more than the rest could ever hope – it would be like Don McLean starting a concert with “American Pie” then playing music inspired by “American Pie” the rest of the night. After skipping the first track (author’s advice: save it for later) each song does an adequate job of building. Nas does what he should have done on Nastradamus: lyrically make sense. Songs like “Nothing Lasts Forever,” and “No Idea’s Original” make up for titles like “U Gotta Love It.” This is a rap album, period (something sorely missing today). The only problem seems to be that it is almost a Christian rap album, and this is a little too much “undercover hyping” for Nas’ upcoming LP Godson. That album pokes its head out throughout the album, making these “tapes” seems far from “lost,” rather “guided.” The overdone chorus on “Black Zombies” kills the song; “Poppa Was A Playa” suffers from the same syndrome – regardless Nas raps like only Nas can. The only question I would like to ask Nas is: “If you (and all of us) are God’s son (children), why are you acting like God is your big brother?” Still, the answer to the less lofty, and heavily debated question, “Can Nas still make a tight album?” is “Yes.”

Sven Barth can be reached at