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Talib Kweli - The Beautiful Struggle

Talib Kweli's sophomore solo album arrives with considerable fear that his mainstream aspirations may turn off longtime fans (ah, the curse of the conscious rapper). However, the album isn't as crassly commercial as some might complain. To be sure, The Beautiful Struggle could stand more consistency, and the album's production is a primary liability: songs like "A Game" and "Going Hard" weakly ape current fads while "Around My Way" inadvisably interpolates the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." That said, the balance of the album still holds up to scrutiny. Kweli might cut a party track ("We Got the Beat") and puff up his street cred ("Back Up Offa Me"), but much of The Beautiful Struggle articulates itself with emotion and intellect: "I Try," "Ghetto Snow," and "Black Girl Pain," for example. Like Kweli's debut Quality, this follow-up falls considerably short of classic status, but it still suggests some moves in a promising direction. --Oliver Wang

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