On Talib Kweli's most recent album, 2017's Radio Silence, the featured artist list is stocked full of potential torchbearers, but it also suggested that the loquacious and conscious artist was not yet ready to pass his torch. He picked collaborators like Anderson .Paak and BJ The Chicago Kid who seem directly inspired by, and others like Rick Ross and Flocka who run counter to, the style that artists like Kweli and Common developed in the late 90's—hip-hop that did not sacrifice functional purpose for sonic quality or vice versa.
This new album is not Kweli at his best, but it does find him inspired and unfatigued. He's perfectly comfortable in replicating all that made his discography to date so great—hard-hitting, rapid lyricism over beats full of groovy samples. Still, the youthfulness almost seems feigned at certain moments, and perhaps a wearier, more reflective Kweli (a la Jay-Z on 4:44) could present new insights rather than reflections of the past. Still, the vitality he insists upon bringing to this record bodes well for a good performance in a live setting. —Henry Solo