Prisoner of Conscious is the fifth solo album released by Talib Kweli, following 2011s Gutter Rainbows. The album was released on May 7, 2013 and features guest appearances from Currensy, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, and Miguel, among others. Production is handled by Oh No (of Gangrene), RZA, Harry Fraud and others.
1) Intro - Skit
2) Human Mic - The album begins with a epic sounding Oh No beat that has some nice piano keys and cinematic strings over hard drums. The beat is really dope and Talib attacks it. Too bad this is so short, because it's really good. Still, it's a great way to kick off the album and hopefully will set the tone for the rest of the LP. Nice.
3) Turnt Up - Trend comes through with a dope, old-school inspired instrumental for Talib to wreck. The drums are sampled from Eric B and Rakims "Paid In Full", but with an added ethereal vocal sample, deep bass and a sprinkle of piano keys. Talib is spitting fire on here too:
"You can feel the heat from the speakerI really like this song. So far, so good.
My sound will darken your features
Run it down like a zebra, I move with the speed of cheetahs
I'm from Brooklyn where the heat is the size of a two-litre
I ain't askin for no followers, I'm lookin for new leaders
It's hard not consuming all the bullshit they feed us
Intravenous, like a cord to the womb from the fetus
Been hard since I started reading
Alliteration is literally littered through my DNA, swimming on through my semen"
4) Come Here (featuring Miguel) - The instrumental, provided by Hitmen affiliates Sean C & LV, is smooth and energetic and it sounds really good. Talib spits some love rhymes and Miguel provides the hook. Seems like he was going to radio play with this one. This is pretty good, but not one of my favorites on here.
5) High Life (featuring Rubix and Bajah) - Oh No returns with another dope beat, this time with some jazzy horns and hand claps. The song is pretty good and features Talib and guest Rubix trading off "feel good" bars while Bajah provides the chorus. I've never heard of Rubix or Bajah, but both sound pretty dope on here. Anyone got any info on them? I'd like to check out more of their work.
6) Ready Set Go (featuring Melanie Fiona) - The beat, by Saadiq Bolden, is quite poppy and synth heavy. Talib spits motivational lyrics about never giving up and achieving your dreams while incorporating a bunch of racing imagery. Melanie Fiona comes through with an ok chorus that does the same. Eh, this is just ok for me.
7) Hold It Now - Another Oh No beat, but this one is quite minimalistic with a heavy bass and a bit of keyboards. Talib does his thing, but doesn't really say anything mind blowing on here. This song is kinda short, which actually works to its advantage because I was starting to tire of the beat. This is far from terrible, but there are much better songs on here.
8) Push Thru (featuring Currensy, Kendrick Lamar, Glen 'Grey' Reynolds) - Another somewhat minimalistic instrumental, this time by S1. The beat is really just a repetitive sample over some rolling drums and it's nothing special. The chorus, by Glen 'Grey' Reynolds, is also kind of forgettable but Kendrick and Talib rip it with Currensy coming the weakest in my opinion. This is good, but it could have been so much better if the beat had been a little better.
9) Hamster Wheel - This Oh No and G Koop collaboration beat is pretty dope. Its got a nice cinematic feel to it. Talib spits a story about a woman being stuck in the streets and not doing anything to better herself - she is stuck running in a hamster wheel. This is pretty good.
10) Delicate Flowers - S1 and Caleb McCampbell come through with a jazzy beat that has a nice vocal sample and some subdued piano keys. Talib kicks a few verses about having a conversation with a woman:
"Men lie out of fear but we front like we’re not afraid,Not bad.
Whether arguing or not, the bills gotta get paid.
We are not in 6th grade, we’re fighting and people watching
On Twitter she emo-blogging, I’m boiling her hemoglobin"
11) Rocketships (featuring Busta Rhymes) - Now THIS is dope. RZA delivers an absolute banger for Talib and Busta Rhymes to rip. His production has been hit or miss the past few years, but this is ill. Talib and Busta both sound great on here:
"Moving at the speed of a solutionThis is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
Bleeding in the streets as we're breathing the pollution
They're saying that we need a revolution
But their passion is reduced to all caps on a computer"
12) Before He Walked (featuring Nelly, Abby Dobson) - Nelly? .......Really? Surprisingly, he isn't that bad on here and provides an ok opening verse. The beat, by E. Jones, is not terrible, but it's not that great either, especially after Rocketships. Abby Dobson provides the chorus and Talib fills in the rest. Not a standout for me.
13) Upper Echelon - Harry Fraud, who is currently one of my favorite producers, comes with a very repetitive, keyboard driven instrumental that I'm not really feelin too much. Talib spits pretty good on here, but this track doesn't do much for me. The beat and the chorus ruin it. Too bad, I was looking forward to this team up.
14) Favela Love (featuring Seu Jorge) - Terrace Martin drops a very laid-back beat that is essentially just a keyboard and a simple drum loop for most of the song. Talib sounds ok, but Seu Jorge is really bad on here. I don't like this one at all. Bleh.
15) Only Gets Better (featuring Marsha Ambrosius) - The album closes with a "keep your head up" song. The beat, by J. Cole, is actually pretty dope and Talib comes correct. Marsha Ambrosius' chorus is ok, but I've heard much better from her in the past. Still, I like this song.
16) Outstanding (featuring Ryan Leslie) - This song is just an iTunes bonus track, but it's better than some of the filler songs that made the album. Boi-1da drops a smooth instrumental for Talib and Ryan Leslie to spit about a woman that is "outstanding." Not bad.
I'm going to rate the album a
3 / 5
since this album is pretty hit-or-miss. There are a few real bangers on here (Human Mic, Turnt Up, Rocketships), but there are also a bunch of songs that are just average. The problem is hard for me to pinpoint. The beats are pretty good, although not mind-blowing, and showcase the live instrumentation throughout the LP. Talib comes correct on most songs and he branches out a bit lyrically to try to escape the "prison" of being labeled as a "conscious rapper". This is all fine, and I'm not expecting Black Star Talib or even Mood "Doom" Talib, but sometimes it just doesn't work for me. I mean its good, but I just expected more given some of the brilliant verses and songs he has put out over the course of his career. Some of the songs on here seem to be geared towards radio play (Upper Echelon with Harry Fraud, Come Here with Miguel), but I can't really picture Talib on the radio given the current market. Still, you should at least check out the album since there is a little bit for everyone on here and the album has some really bright spots. Pick it up on iTunes or via Amazon below.