Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Talib Kweli: Ear Drum [Warner Bros., 2007]
Talib Kweli earns the respect he gets. He's got plenty of brains and enough flow, and though his attempts to make conscious rap commercial inspire purist sniping, he's balanced the two with integrity and grace. But four solo albums in, it can't be an accident that he's done his signature work with collaborators--Mos Def (Black Star), Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal), and many, many cameos (try the Coup's "My Favorite Mutiny"). The man simply lacks spark. Kweli's Warner debut features yet more cameos--Kanye! Norah Jones! UGK!--and many, many producers. Though it's admirably consistent and pretty darn OK, it lacks a knockout track to counterbalance the complaints about the King James Bible and swine toothpaste. Closest is one to his kids, with Musiq Soulchild adding music and soul, child. Right after, "Listen!!!" establishes its right to bang on your title orifice. But then there's Justin Timberlake's bonus cut. JT--eschew philosophy! You sing, therefore you are. [Rolling Stone: 3]