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Talib Kweli

Ahard-knock life? Eh, not so much. In stark contrast to so many of his fellow Brooklyn-born MCs, Talib Kweli was raised by two university-professor parents and spent part of his childhood in a posh Connecticut boarding school. As such, matters of Afrocentric conscience, not urban street survival, informed his first hip-hop efforts (mostly notably the Black Star project in the late '90s with former collaborator Mos Def). Over time, Kweli — whose solo album Eardrum debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in 2006 — would publicly grapple with his enlightened-brother label; in an interview with Vibe magazine, he announced plans to call a future album Prisoner of Consciousness. Kweli and longtime collaborator DJ Hi-Tek's current project Reflection Eternal's Revolutions Per Minute LP dropped back in May, featuring such radio-friendly tracks as bouncy doo-wop dance single "Midnight Hour." Featuring guest vocals by hip-hop siren Estelle, if this is Kweli's way of rebranding himself as a fun guy, it ain't half bad. Certainly Revolutions is more infectiously joyful than his craven hijacking of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" hook on the dreadful single "Steady." Yikes — let's see him get that off his conscience.

 
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