Post ‘Train of Thought’, Kweli’s material has been good but, in my humble opinion, missing one vital ingredient – Hi-Tek. Much like Mike and Scottie, Dre and Snoop or Russell Crowe and drama; each are individually talented, but untouchable as a duo. Maybe Talib doesn’t see it this way. Maybe he’s fed up of people like me hatin’ on his solo game. I wouldn’t blame him. After all, this is the same man who with the use of various production sources has given us hits like ‘Get By’, ‘The Proud’ and ‘Never Been In Love’. Maybe I’m just being sentimental. Fact is, Kweli is one of the realest MC’s still standing – and ‘Right About Now’ does nothing to jeopardize his well-earned rep.
Among the highlights will certainly be ‘Drugs, Basketball and Rap’ and ‘Ms. Hill’. Over a rugged backing track, the former discusses the undeniable attraction blacks have towards the trinity. Speaking candidly he says: “Niggers getting caught in a trap, for the cash it’s the drugs basketball and the rap, there’s more to us than that”. In stark contrast is Ms. Hill. The track is based on his relationship with fading r&b star, Lauryn Hill. Relying on a melodic piano as the tracks foundation, the content is sincere, as if Kweli were trying to re-connect with a lost friend.
Other tracks include ‘Supreme, Supreme’ which sees Talib re-unite with Mos Def. However, after hearing it as a bonus track from ‘The Beautiful Struggle’ (UK version), I felt that I had lost a track before the first listen. His trend of socially aware lyrics is continued on tracks like ‘Roll Off Me’ where he spits: “They used to ask ya who’s ya master now they ask ya who’s ya pastor, it’s your allegiance that they truly after”. Even when tackling political issues he does so creatively and in a manner more accommodating than say, Dead Prez. With few exceptions the material is hard hitting with deep bass lines and well executed drum patterns. Even so, Kweli has since mastered the chilled groove and provides some balance with songs like ‘Two & Two’.
The weak points are few, but the choice of certain feature artists is at least a cause for debate. Whether not meshing with the backing track or guilty of weak vocals, these could have been selected more carefully. This is particularly true of the well-produced ‘Fly That Knot’. Possessing infectious horns and head-bobbing bass, the more lazy and, at times, monotone vocals of MF Doom sound out of place.
Objectively speaking, this is a solid mixtape, possessing a complementary grit in place of the polish of your typical studio album. I suppose that after his debut offering, nothing will sound quite the same again, but that does not mean it is not quality. Talent is exactly that ultimately, and Kweli has an abundance that overcomes the need for a sole producer.