Liberation – “Liberation 2” review

Liberation is a MC/producer duo consisting of Brooklyn veteran Talib Kweli on the mic & Oxnard extraordinaire Madlib behind the boards. The pair first linked up in ‘07 off the strength off an eponymous self-titled debut backed by Stones Throw Records & have collaborated with each other a handful of times since, with the last time being Black Star’s long-awaited sophomore album no fear of time* about 10 months ago at this point. An album much like Gotham’s own self-titled debut the year before proved that Kweli can still make great music even though I’m not afraid to acknowledge the fact that he makes a total prick out of himself on social media these days. Nonetheless, Liberation’s returning in effect for a sequel to their debut that’s been 2 years in the making & I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it.

After the “Assata’s Code” intro, the first song “Best Year Ever” sets the album up with a jazzy boom bap instrumental & Kweli talking about how things are only gonna get better from hereon out whereas “Air Quotes” has a more empowering quality to the beat as the subject matter delves into the fakeness & toxicity of everyone else in the rap game. “Nat Turner” with Cassper Nyovest blends trap with afrobeats obviously getting on a more conscious tip lyrically, but then “1 for Biz” with Wildchild works in some pianos along with these kicks & snares to pay homage to the late Biz Markie.

Meanwhile on “Loop Digga’s Revenge”, we have Madlib hooking up a soul sample shouting out those who grew up staring at album covers & encouraging to come to a show if you wanna see the greatest in action just before Pink Siifu tags along for the the slick “Ad Vice” talking about how unapologetic both of he & Kweli are with the latter’s daughter Diani on the hook. “Wild Sweet Love” comes through with a drumless get spacious vibe getting romantic leading into the flute/string-tinged “Wild Beauty” instrumental interlude.

The late Mac Miller slides through for “The Right to Love Us” reminding everyone what our women are fighting accompanied by a jazzy beat with some heavy kicks while “After These Messages” with Amani finds him joining his dad on the mic so the father-son pair deliver a meditation on American racism over some keys, strings & horns. Roc Marciano & Westside Gunn tag along for the sequel to the highlight track “Richies” off Hitler Wears Hermes IX down to the same Soul Superiors sample “Trust in Me Baby” as the trio bring it raw on the mic.

The track “Marathon Through Babylon” has a colder tone instrumentally as Talib & Meshell Ndegeocello both ponder why & when did everyone become such sheep as well as comparing their rhymes to that of alkaline & prior to the “Assata’s Reprise” outro, the final song “Something Special” really ends the album by mixing these synthesizers with jazz-funk icon Roy Ayers on the vibraphones by calling this innovation as opposed to imitation.

I with all respect like to compare Kweli to Kanye in the sense that both of them are established veterans with an insane amount of artistic talent who publicly make asses of themselves on the regular & I say that because when you think about that in the grand scheme of things, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. That being said: Liberation 2 most certainly lived up to my expectations by continuing Talib’s artistic redemption that the Gotham album began & no fear of time* continued on with. Madlib’s production is potently jazzy & dusty with the whole concept of globally unifying through space & time undeniably needed to be heard.

Score: 4.5/5

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Black Star – “no fear of time” review

This is the highly anticipated sophomore album from Brooklyn duo Black Star. Consisting of Yasiin Bey & Talib Kweli, the pair started off as childhood friends before dropping their self-titled debut in the fall of ‘98 to universal acclaim. Both parties would go on to have very successful solo careers of their own, but reunited with Madlib in late 2019 when they recorded no fear of time & is finally seeing the light of day thanks to Luminary.

“O.G. (On God)” opens up the album talking about how the real don’t die over a bass-guitar & some strings hanging in the background whereas “So Be It” has somewhat of a rugged quality to the instrumental going at the throats of anyone who wants to step up to them lyrically. “Sweetheart. Sweethard. Sweetodd” takes a more soulful route getting romantic just before “My Favorite Band” works in a crooning vocal sample to make a dedication to their favorite group of human beings.

Meanwhile on “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”, we have Yasiin & Kweli on some pianos & dusty drums talking about how automatic they are leading into the entrancing “Yonders” delivering bars like “Real G’s try to stop the violence” as well as how Satan runs everytime they smell him coming. The track “Supreme Alchemy” shoots for a more mellow sound talking about paying tribute & commemorating shortly after while the penultimate song “Freequency” with Black Thought finds the trio over a beat with some jazzy undertones to it repping the few that can sell you their life stories. The title track ends the album by keeping the jazz going talking about floating on.

I didn’t think this album would ever see the light of day, but I’m sure happy as Hell that it did because this is a stellar follow-up to their self-titled debut. Madlib’s production is a bit more abstract in comparison to the duo’s debut, but both of them sound incredibly laser-focused & manage to deliver the conscious hip hop we’ve all come to know & love them for as if it hasn’t been almost 24 years.

Score: 4.5/5

Madlib – “Sound Ancestors” review

This is a brand new album from Oxnard icon Madlib. Getting his start as 1/3 of the trio Lootpack, he would go on to become one of the most well respected producers in all of hip hop from his unique ear for sample to his vast discography ranging from Madvillainy to WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip & his 2 albums under the high-pithed alter ego Quasimoto. However to finish off the first month of 2021, the Beat Konducta coming through with a new batch of beats.

After the futuristic “There Is No Time” intro, the first instrumental “The Call” throws it back to the days of ’70s blaxpoitation films whereas the “Theme de Crabtree” dabbles into boom bap territory. The “Road of the Lonely Ones” instrumental has a bittersweet, soulful vibe that I like a lot while “Loose Goose” is probably the quirkiest beat in the tracklisting. The “Dirtknock” instrumental cleverly fuses elements of boom bap & trip hop while “Hopprock” experiments with sound collage & field recordings. The “Riddim Chant” instrumental is the perfect track to smoke to with it’s stripped-back sound while the title track dives right into spiritual jazz territority.

The 2-parter “One for Quartabê / Right Now” starts off by going into a Latin direction à la The Medicine Show 2: Flight to Brazil, but then transitions into something more smoother. The “Hang Out (Phone Off)” instrumental jumps right back into that traditional boom bap sound while “Two for 2” is a super funky tribute to the late J Dilla. The “Latino Negro” instrumental switches gears back into Latin territority while “The New Normal” makes me feel like I’m being ascedened to the pearly gates. The “Chino” instrumental fuses together elements of boom bap & soul very well whereas “Duumbiyay” obviously throws it back to Beat Konducta, Vols. 3 & 4: Beat Konducta in India with it’s Middle Eastern samples.

Dude is one of my all-time favorite producers & he does not disappoint on this new album whatsoever. It’s amalgoration of all the sounds he’s dabbled with in the past from experimental hip hop & jazz to Indian & Brazilian music. If you’re a true fan of Madlib’s production, then this is a must listen in my eyes.

Score: 4/5