Talib Kweli “Quality” reviewd by Clarence Baxter, Revolutionary

Brothers! Sisters! Comrades! The revolution is here, so get up off your feet, get in the street, and let the music play!

I’m a revolutionary, and my crew of international soundbombers travels the world exposing people to the world beyond the tyranny of top 40, the oppression of old sounds, the rotting corpse of corporate control…

I’m a revolutionary, but I’m also an American.

Lately in my travels I’ve been hearing a lot of hate against America, which is perceived as a massive behemoth stuffed full of country-fried cowboys with guns and bad attitudes. The truth is that America is a country governed like every other country by unimaginative and uncreative people who ride roughshod over the populace in their pursuit of currency. But the people of America are not a single entity, we are a diverse population of freaks, intellectuals, revolutionaries and freedom-seeking, pleasure-loving, don’t-tread-on-me wildmen and women…


So it was with a newfound determination that I gathered my crew, including red Army Colonel and Drum n Bass enthusiast Master Fung, Akbar X, Shenard Rodriguez, and the former lord of Venice Beach known only as McGinty, and told them of our next mission: Paris, to play the revolutionary American sounds of Talib Kweli to the doubting French.

Master Fung

The night before our mission we cooled out in a London safehouse. Much ale and hash was consumed to break the almost visible tension in the air, as our mostly American crew prepared for a showdown. McGinty was his usual stoical self, sitting in the shadows slowly and lovingly wiping down his trademark Panasonic RX-7000 with its Alpine car-amp and handmade speaker add-ons. I hadn’t yet picked a blaster for the mission, but since my trusty Technics custom had a blown tweeter ever since our Lebanese street battle with a crew of local traditional toughs, it would have to be one of my back-ups. Knowing that the French would shrug of anything less than a full-on aural assault, I decided to chose my fully custom blaster, the big gun which I hadn’t used in a street battle since soundbombing the Buenos Aires airport in 1990.

Akbar X and Shenard Rodriguez

As I pulled ‘il monstro’ from its leather satchel, Akbar X raised his monobrow and gave me a look as if to say “we’re into some serious shit, eh?” And we were.

The next morning I was sweating bullets on the Eurostar as we dove under the seas on our way to hostile territory. Akbar was our first casualty as his cherished ’79 Sanyo M-9998 blew its speakers as he warmed up in the back of the train. Our small team of music revolutionaries emerged at the station and jumped in a cab, destination St. Germain. Formerly the bastion of artists and poor intellectuals, this area now contains the upper-middle-class, and their bourgeoisie ideas about both music and my home country. They were in for a high-decibel shock.

Clarence Baxter

As I exited the cab a well-heeled gentlemen took one look at my countenance and sneered “Americain” he said to his companion, a smartly dressed woman with jet-black hair. She wrinkled her nose. At that very moment I pressed ‘play’ and the hot beats of Talib Kweli’s “Gun Music” blasted through the streets. Blown back by the sheer power of ‘il monstro’ and the lyrical power of Kweli’s message, the two Parisians were visibly shaken by my assault. But they stayed to listen to Kweli spit:

You could be whoever, a black panther or lap dancer
when respect is the question folks coming with the gat answer
Shoot at your feet like spider, you a tap dancer
What am I amusing to you?
You better have that answer
Toys for guns, I got guns for toys
Silencers bring the heat without bringing the noise
Bringing the funk of dead bodies, go ahead bring in your boys
You’ll see the soul of black folk like W.E.B DuBois
Israelis got tanks and Palestinians got rocks
Inmates got shanks and dirty cops they got glocks
We got tribes in Africa that listen to Pac
fighting with brothers who pump Biggie like they live on the block

Soon an angry crowd started to gather, trying to reach me but repelled by the sheer force of my blaster’s multiple amps and massive speakers. From the back of the crowd I could smell bacon, so I quickly switched to something with groove potential. I had smacked Paris in the mouth with my American revolution, now it was time to get their asses shakin’. Kweli’s Quality album is filled with anthems, grooves, and revolution. It’s an album replete with intelligence, rage, joy, love, hate, and everything else that makes the world go ’round in 2003. Musically, the beats and sounds are all over the map, but somehow it works and Kweli’s lyrical consistency and strong voice hold the entire package together. You can feel him stretching for greater and greater heights with each and every song, as he explores his own mind, his block, and the state of the nation and the world. If you don’t own this album, you have missed out on one of the best albums of the last few years.

Just as the cops were about to reach the front of the crowd, I blasted track 3, “Get By”. With a groove more infectious than SARS and a lyric deep as the Seine yet clear as the bells of Notre Dame, “Get By” started to win the crowd over, as smiles and bewildered looks of bemusement preceded ass-shaking and joyful yelps. “Vive L’France!” I screamed to the crowd, who replied “Vive L’France!” “Vive L’America!” I screamed. They didn’t reply, but they danced their asses off in the streets of Paris to the sounds of an American revolutionary.

I woke up the next morning in a strange apartment, the smell of Gauloise
in the air. The woman who had sneered at me from the cab was smoking and listening to Quality on her discman. Vive le Revolution!

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