Anyone who criticizes hip-hop for its violent and materialistic slants should listen to the debut album (due in stores Tuesday) from this powerful rap duo. Kweli, the team’s rapper, agrees that the music could be more meaningful, calling on rappers to elevate their work in many of these songs. While most rappers boast of their toughness, he would rather experience spiritual enlightenment through his music.

Kweli also demonstrates tremendous compassion and range, paying homage to his family on the moving “For Women,” extolling the virtues of love on “Love Language,” and reflecting on his life on the introspective “Memories Live.”

Kweli, who is also in the group Black Star with Mos Def, is a top-tier lyricist whose commentary shows keen insight and inspires soul-searching. Even though he uses much of his time to spread positivity, extend thanks and search for hope, he hasn’t made a preachy album. In fact, he rhymes with fury on the aggressive “Down for the Count,” which also features strong performances from guests Rah Digga and Xzibit. Produce and DJ Hi-Tek positions himself as one of hip-hop’s most promising beat-makers with 20 strong sonic settings, often incorporating elements of jazz and soul. The duo headlines the Palace on Nov. 17.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.