It’s been nearly sixteen years since the last time this emcee-producer tandem collaborated (last year’s “No Fear of Time” doesn’t count). Playing on both of their names, the original “Liberation” was a temporarily free download during the days when artists and labels collaborated with music-friendly social media sites, like the now all-but-extinct MySpace. In the time since, social media has evolved and exponentially expanded, as has the output of hip-hop artists. There was a time when Tuesday was paradoxically analogous to payday: You were spending money, but you were excited because it was spent on a new album from the artist you liked. Now, rappers drop an EP or LP every day, usually (due to the digital download era) free of charge. Nostalgic rant notwithstanding, the sequel “Liberation 2” lives up to its title: It’s longer than its predecessor, and the variety of guests (from Q-Tip, to Westside Gunn, to even Kweli’s own children) exhibits a unity from within.
Kweli’s daughter Diani is the one who starts off the album with a spoken word verse in the same vein as her father’s conscious material on “Assata’s Code.” She continues her vocal features in rapped form on “Air Quotes”, an appropriately airy and sample-shifting track with Kweli showing his penchant for weaving social commentary with bars referencing a myriad gamut of topics from kamikaze pilots to the DC Comics’ Suicide Squad. Next up is “Nat Turner”, featuring Nyovest & Seun Kuti, and is notable for its worldly production and Afrobeat influence. Talib takes a double-time flow over this beat with some “let’s get free” lyrics. On the reggae-infused “One For Biz”, Kweli enlists Wildchild and Q-Tip for a dedication to the late Biz Markie, complete with samples from the Biz. The lead single, “Best Year Ever” is a horn-filled reference to 2023 being the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The video features a variety of hip-hop luminaries such as Bun B, the Alchemist, Lil’ Wayne, and MC Serch:
“Loop Digga’s Revenge” has a soulful Blaxploitation production and it, along with the lyrics, is dedicated to the true crate diggers and the vintage albums from which they strive to create something new. The keyboard driven “Ad Vice” has Kweli describing himself as “the most unapologetic Black man you’ve ever seen” ala Chuck D. from Public Enemy. “Wild Sweet Love” is a syrupy atmospheric love yarn which gives way to “Wild Beauty”, accentuated with airy vocals as well as woodwind instrumentals. “The Right to Love Us” has a more upbeat, militant vibe to it and features a posthumous verse from Mac Miller, complete with his trademark slurred flow:
Moving forward, we arrive at “After These Messages”, which begins with a vocal sample comparing trash-talking internet trolls whose supposed anonymity is compared to hooded Klansmen. Kweli’s son, Amani, also raps a verse, coming full circle with his collaborations on this album with his children. “Richies Part Two” is the first hardcore track of the album and has Roc Marciano and Westside Gunn. “Marathon Thru Babylon” an eerie track with hi-hats and lo-fi snares with references ranging from Rorschach from “Watchmen” to Mike Tyson. Roy Ayers gets a feature on “Something Special” while the album is bookended with the jazzy “Assata’s Reprise.” Personally, Madlib’s production is best with producers who have a chaotic, yet controlled unpredictability in their rhyme style, like Freddie Gibbs and MF DOOM. Kweli’s albums have been better with a variety of producers who understand his style. While “Liberation 2” isn’t a complete melding of those two, it strives to come close.