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The Beautiful Struggle

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Album Review

Something's not right when a high compliment — one laid down on wax, no less! — from a giant like Jay-Z doesn't set off a major sales spike. Such is the case with Talib Kweli, a phenomenal MC who has only flirted with mainstream acceptance, despite being admired by a host of harder-edged platinum artists. Rather than try to ride out that slow if steady momentum and see where it takes him, Kweli takes the power into his own hands and grabs for the brass ring. The Beautiful Struggle is far from a 180 for him, but it's just out of character enough to be awkward. Whether he's attempting to bridge the underground to the mainstream or simply pull away from the former, the results aren't wholly convincing. Not only is Kweli attempting to alter the way in which he's perceived through his own verses; he's also been keeping some unlikely company — a (superior) prealbum mixtape featured guest spots from Fabolous, Styles P, and G-Unit addition Shawn Penn. More than once on this album, Kweli's as anxious to lose his backpacking image as a fourth grader at 3 p.m. On the title track, he declares, "They call me the political rapper even after I tell 'em I don't f*ck with politics, I don't even follow it." He stands no chance of losing that tag when a line like "the motherf*cking Democrats is acting like Republicans" is contained within the same verse. Plus, he always has and always will excel at depicting facets of interpersonal politics. As much as The Beautiful Struggle is likely to catch longtime fans off-guard and leave mainstream followers indifferent, Kweli's unexpected moves appear to have more to do with trying new things — and possibly thwarting preconceived notions — than desperation. Still, there's no denying that it misses a little more than it hits.

Customer Reviews

The Beautiful Album

It's just basically mystifying how Talib Kweli has not been able to parlay his great rhymes into mainstream success. All I can say is, those who don't listen to this album are missing out. Kweli adresses a previous weak point (notably on "Quality") by really getting some great beats for the "Beautiful Struggle," something established right away with the excellent "Going Hard." He also gets great colloboration, most prominently on the single "I Try," with Mary J. Blige. However, any album by Kweli will be about the words coming out of his mouth, and his fabulous flow, finally mixed with some good beats, makes this a very rich listening experience. His lyrics are great for two reasons; the rhyming, and the content. He's very dextrous lyrically, and is no stranger to three-syllable rhymes. This, whem mixed with his sensitivity, makes for a great flow. What sets this apart from artists like the G-Unit is that every song is food for thought, with an explicit message. All in all, an outstanding album.


i still am amazed when i think about how kanye west, who is still a good rapper, is thought of as one of the best reality rappers when talib realeases songs like going hard (which i think is the best rap song of all time) and beautiful struggle. never been in love should be a huge teen love ballad, but its not. it is uncomprehendable to think that talib is not one of the most popular rappers in the world after he realeases perfect music like this. unbelieveable


It hurts me deeply to diss on Talib Kweli, because he is no doubt my favorite MC of all time. This album though, is a major dropoff from Quality, and especially Reflection Eternal. I don't know why he had to go for the mainstream sounds. The rhymes are there for the most part, but the beats sound like all of the top ten garbage being played on the radio these days. This album will not stop me from picking up Talib's new album when it comes out, but my fingers are crossed that he will go back to his old ways, and stay away from the mainstream. Caveat emptor.


Born: October 3, 1975 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

If skills sold, Talib Kweli would have been one of the most commercially successful rappers of his time. As it was, however, the earnest MC became one of the most critically successful rappers of his time, which dawned in the late '90s when he rapped alongside Mos Def and DJ Hi-Tek as part of the group Black Star. This trio of up-and-comers and their widely acclaimed self-titled 1998 album debut, Black Star, helped make Rawkus Records one of the premier underground rap outposts of the late '90s....
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