CD Reviews: Talib Kweli, Fabolous and B.o.B.

talib_kweli_gravitas_coverConscious Hip-Hop

Talib Kweli Gravitas (Javotti Media)

Talib Kweli’s identity crisis has been maddening at times. He’s a socially conscious MC whose methods to integrate into the mainstream have produced polarizing results. But rather than conform, Kweli’s latest album is a return to form for the New York rapper. Heavy on the subject matter, Kweli delivers as he tackles spirituality (“Demonology”) and obsession with Illuminati (“The Wormhole”) while still flexing lyrical muscle alongside Black Thought and Raekwon on “Art Imitates Life” and “Violations,” respectively. Thankfully, he’s decided that trying to appeal to the masses by dumbing down dilutes his art. Gravitas will satisfy many longtime fans. ★★★★☆

fabolous_the_soul_tape_3_coverWitty Street Rap

Fabolous The Soul Tape 3 (Self-Released)

Fabolous’ Soul Tape series has always brought the best out of the New York lyricist, and this third installment revitalizes his career. Without the need to pander for radio spins, Fabolous offers witty punch lines, soulful production and a gut full of venom. “The Get Back,” his dazzling response to Kendrick Lamar’s braggadocios, sets the tone for the project. It’s lyrics first as Fabolous’ street rhymes shine on “Playa” and “The Hope.” He appeals to the ladies with the smooth “Lay Down” and digs into toxic relationships with “Situationships.” If this is any indication, 2014 is going to be a big year for Fabolous. ★★★★☆


B.o.B. Underground Luxury (Grand Hustle)

B.o.B. hasn’t quite found the sweet spot between underground and mainstream since his debut. His latest effort, Underground Luxury, is a conscious effort to successfully bridge that gap. Unfortunately, it’s far more luxury than underground, and it falls into the well of cliché rappers. B.o.B., you’re better than that. Aside from “We Still in this Bitch” and “One Day,” the album is a downer stuffed with lousy sex talk on “Back Me Up” and cringe-worthy lyricism on “Ready.” It’s obvious that he’s trying to sell records, but the transparency completely ruins the experience. ★★☆☆☆