If that sounds a little harsh, it's because Kweli has proved himself to be one of the 10 best MCs around, and because at times he lives up to that standard here. "I Try" is hip-hop at its best, with a gospel-rooted hook from Mary J. Blige and indelible poetry within: "Life is a beautiful struggle/People search through the rubble for a suitable hustle." Kweli also displays amazing range, taking the genre to unfamiliar locales, both lyrically ("Black Girl Pain") and musically (the exuberant hard rock candy of "We Got the Beat"). Yet unfairly or not, in West's wake, even those victories ring a trifle hollow.
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