In the wake of the lengthy nap between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it takes at least a couple weeks for the music industry to get their gears greased and grinding once again. In January of 2007, hardly anything worthwhile is queued up for release until the 23rd, with some notable exceptions, but a very limited few. And yet, shortly after “Auld Lang Syne” was slurred one last time, Talib Kweli and Madlib offered one mighty generous gift in the form of a free download titled Liberation. Available for one week only, Liberation came as sort of a late Christmas present, a lo-fi, yet irresistible release to tide us over until Kweli’s proper new album, Ear Drum.
When Liberation was posted, Kweli made a point of drawing a distinction between the two releases, noting that Ear Drum will be a very different album than Liberation. However, these nine tracks make for some of the most purely enjoyable tracks in either artist’s catalog. Much to the contrary to Kweli’s prior release, The Beautiful Struggle, Liberation flows quite seamlessly from beginning to end, which is no coincidence. Rather than taking a jumbled producer swapping approach, Kweli is strictly backed by Madlib’s beats, which are consistently impeccable. On leadoff track “The Show,” Madlib lays down a bed of strings and piano while Kweli drops lines like “y’all niggas in my ear like a Bluetooth.” At a little more than two minutes, the song brings to mind `lib’s masterpiece collab with MF Doom, Madvillainy, which was similarly brief and bangin’.
With only nine tracks, there’s very little room for filler. In fact, there’s none, and as such, each track on Liberation is adequately solid, avoiding unnecessary shout outs, skits or extended remixes. Instead, the duo gives us psychedelic funk like “Funny Money,” DJ Shadow-like soundscapes (with Timberland and Timberlake name dropping) on “Time is Right,” and even a six minute epic in “Happy Home,” the album’s stellar climax. In this track Kweli narrates something of a history within his family tree, elegantly ornamented by Candice Anderson’s lovely recitation of the song’s title.
Liberation came as a splendid surprise, particularly considering the creative dry spell this time of year. And that it was free is even better. Just one week after being posted it was taken down, however, so those who didn’t have the chance to hear it may be out of luck. But Liberation is just so damn fun and funky, something tells me this won’t be the last time its nine tracks will surface.
Madvillain – Madvillainy
Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek – Reflection Eternal
Quasimodo – The Further Adventures of Lord Quas
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.