Talib Kweli's sixth album, Ear Drum, doesn't drop until September, but the Brooklyn emcee has already contributed to 2006's conscious-rap calendar: He spit an incendiary verse on the Coup's Pick a Bigger Weapon and joined current tourmates the Roots, among other luminaries, in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Kweli first turned heads in 1998 with "Manifesto," on which he detailed a ten-point plan for preserving the genre's purity. On Ear Drum's first single, "More or Less," he returns to the platform, demanding "more rap songs that stress purpose/With less misogyny and less curses." The Pharcyde stressed a similar theme on 1995's Labcabincalifornia, urging peers to "kick something that means something." Only Imani and Bootie Brown remain from the original quartet, but these stalwarts stay true to the crew's blend of sober musings, smooth beats and self-deprecating silliness. The Roots recently released two collections subtitled The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots, but any real comprehension of these stellar jazz/funk improvisationalists starts with their stage show.
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