Two decades into their illustrious careers, Talib Kweli and Styles P are bringing "edutainment" back to the forefront of hip-hop culture with The Seven.
A percussion-laced intro reveals the album's title was spawned from far more than the track total. Seven is the number of the enlightened, with the seasoned MCs naturally appointing themselves the genre's ultimate bastions on the opener "Poets & Gangstas." As is often the case when luminaries join forces, the pair keep each other on point throughout, and leave a lot to unpack over the bar-heavy septet.
Upon swearing themselves in as the culture's undisputed truth tellers, Kweli and Ghost handily tackle white privilege on the jazzy "Brown Guys," where a torn Styles makes a bitter truth a little easier to grasp: "This ain't a stab or a jab, but I'm feeling kinda mad they ain't treated like a villain too / His weed as good as mine, his gun as big as mine, and he motherfuckin' chillin' too." The pair's charge doesn't end there, as they expose some grander, harsher realities of a morally bankrupt establishment over ominous keys and frantic strings on "In the Field," with the urgency in the beat and flows befitting the task at hand.
It takes a certain strand of self-importance to stake a claim as the face of an entire movement, but the ripened wordsmiths aren't flexing so much as doing their part to elevate hip-hop to the heights they know it can reach. Kweli, for one, gladly leaves a piece of himself on "Let it Burn" to prove it's "way more than cars, clothes and jewellery."
The short, dense opus is only temporarily burdened by a Common verse marred with uncharacteristically pedestrian similes ("Teleprompters") and ill-fitting strings that regularly drown out the quality bars of the LOX- and NIKO IS-assisted "Nine Point Five."
The subject matter may leave some thinking The Seven picks up where Kweli and Mos Def left off in 1998, but Styles rightfully maintains he isn't filling anyone's shoes: "Ain't the new Black Star, but shit I'm the mos'." Colour the culture edutained. (Javotti Media/3D)