Since he and Mos Def combined talents with the release of Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star in 1998, Talib Kweli has become a permanent presence in both the hip-hop world and modern culture as a whole. Just as he has become a huge presence in the hip-hop community, he has also become an outspoken voice on Twitter. But he doesn’t just hide behind tweets and lyrics, Kweli is also known for putting his efforts where his words are, as it is well known that he is a political activist. With his eighth album, Radio Silence, Talib Kweli continues to use this passion and his experience with activism as tools to provide fans with the conscious rap for which he’s known.
Radio Silence is a solid album from start to finish, and it doesn’t give in to the trends that have taken over much of today’s hip-hop and rap. With this album, Talib Kweli stays loyal to his own style and gives fans the sound they expect and love. “The Magic Hour,” kicks off the album with high energy and upbeat sounds and lyrics. The song is a great introduction to the album, as it shows off Kweli’s lyrical talent and standard style. The song finishes with the proclamation, “Hip-hop will flourish with nourishment and the proper care,” before moving on to the rest of the album.
“Traveling Light” and “All of Us” follow up with passionate lyrics and a soulful sound. “Traveling Light” has high energy, and it is the album’s first single and Kweli’s second collaboration with Anderson .Paak. From “Traveling Light,” the album moves into the slower and soulful, “All of Us,” a collaboration with Jay Electronica and Yummy Bingham. This song’s lyrics delve deep and discuss the black experience, class, and police brutality. “She’s my Hero” is the fourth song on the album. It continues to have a soulful sound accompanied by visceral lyrics about Bresha Meadows, a 14-year-old girl who shot her abusive father in his sleep. Kweli’s surprising collaboration with Waka Flocka Flame, “Chips,” changes the album’s pace and creates relief after the slow tempo and heavy lyrics of “She’s my Hero,” but, while “Chips” is successful and fun, it is not as memorable as the first songs on the album.
The rest of the album is solid but not as memorable as the first few songs. “Knockturnal” is beautifully written and focuses on lower class struggles in the inner city. Amber Coffman and Myka 9 join Talib Kweli on the title track. “Radio Silence” gives the listeners both hooks and Kweli’s philosophical lyrics. “The One I Love” is about an unfaithful rapper who only truly loves one woman and needs her back, which is a love story everyone has heard 100 times. “Heads up Eyes Open” is collaboration with Rick Ross and Yummy Bingham, but compared to the quality and depth of the other material, it doesn’t really add too much value to the album. “Let it Roll” is lighthearted and fun, which contrasts well with the closing track and keeps it from getting too heavy. The closing track, “Write at Home,” features Datcha, Bilal, and Robert Glasper, and it is the perfect outro as it slows down the pace and wraps up everything nicely, closing with a slow beat and jazzy instrumentation paired with Kweli’s conscious, philosophical commentary, resembling spoken word poetry.
Radio Silence does not disappoint. Talib Kweli continues to provide fans with his signature style and deep, conscious lyrics, and as, usual, Kweli delves deep into current cultural issues focusing mainly on racism, power, and police brutality. While he has discussed a lot of this subject matter before, it seems even more important and powerful now because of the current political and cultural landscape. It is an album that definitely reflects the time. While Radio Silence is great, there is nothing too surprising or unexpected, but if something works well it doesn’t need to be changed.
About The Contributor
Leah Helms is a freelance writer whose work is mainly focused on entertainment, women’s interests, and finance. She has been writing professionally for over five years and has had articles published by Cheat Sheet, Yahoo Finance, and others. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, son, dog, and two cats.