Even after giving the new Talib Kweli record a good number of spins, it's hard to feel that you've begun to unpack everything the prolific hip-hop artist has layered within the confines of "Quality." Kweli has been in the public eye since 1998's excellent joint effort, "Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star," and again on this, his second solo effort, the Brooklyn native continues to aim far above the simple samples and bland bravado of mainstream hip-hop. Instead, the quick-tongued rapper pulls from reggae, pop, funk and neo-soul to infuse his socially conscious messages with shape-shifting, uplifting music. Plus, Kweli has a gift for lightning-strike one-liners and an effortless flow, whether he's giving praise to becoming a father on "Joy," which features old pal Mos Def ("I do it all for the seeds, y'all / In their formative years when they need, y'all"), or his narrative of class and color struggles on "Get By" ("Attacking the system / The blacks, Latins in prison / The numbers have risen / They victims / Lacking division / Should have known all they got / Is rap to listen to.") Even when describing troubling situations, though, Kweli keeps his message motivational: "I let them know we missing you / The love is unconditional / Even when the condition is critical / And the living is miserable / Your position is pivotal." Although he has numerous positive points to proselytize, Kweli never comes off as preachy, a statement to his ability to weave intelligent, thought-provoking storytelling into well-crafted dance floor grooves.
-- Jennifer Maerz
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8162.)
Kelly Osbourne "Shut Up" isn't a bad debut for Ozzy's little girl, but it could have been a little more bad -- as in naughty, outrageous, more like Kelly. After all, here's a wild child who drops the f-bomb at dinner more often than she passes the salt. Yet her CD doesn't even warrant the requisite honor of a "Parental Advisory" sticker?
Kelly, 18, does sneak the Osbournes' favorite term of endearment past the censors one time on the album. But mostly, "Shut Up" is a sunny retro-romp that owes its inspiration to the Go-Go's and Joan Jett. Kelly's singing is at least "American Idol" audition-worthy, and her backing band bashes through the straightforward pop-punk tunes with Ramones-like abandon.
Poor Kelly doesn't date much on MTV's "The Osbournes," but now that she's a rock star, she's gone boy-crazy. Osbourne bosses 'em around ("On Your Own"), goes schizo on 'em ("Contradiction"), worships 'em ("More Than Life Itself"), then, eventually, just sinks into the couch ("Come Dig Me Out"). Most of the fun-filled songs have enough spunk and attitude ("Blah, blah, blah," Kelly sasses on the catchy title track) to keep them on the brain's tongue while you're lathering up in the shower. But, yo, Kelly, this is a contrived TV spinoff album made for fans. Where are the headbangin' epics about smackin' Jack Sabbath and abusin' Ozzy's credit cards?
The finale is an unlisted track, the previously released, rocked-up cover of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," which -- bearing Kelly's age in mind -- would seem potentially more convincing than the original. But then you remember that the preaching papa is a mumbling Ozzy. And when Kelly cries that she's "keepin' my baby," well, she's likely referring to a cutesy Osbourne pooch that just soiled the rug.
Consider yourself safe, Madonna.
-- Michael Deeds
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8163.)