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Two of Hip Hop's most cherished icons, Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder have come together to create what undoubtedly will go down as an instantly classic album. INDIE 500 features an All Star supporting cast, including Problem, Slug (of Atmosphere), Rapsody, Pharaoh Monch, Brother Ali, Hi-Tek, NIKO IS and more. After exploding on to the scene as one half of the legendary Black Star alongside Mos Def in 1998, Talib Kweli quickly followed up in 2000 with the album Train of Thought, his collaborative effort with producer Hi-Tek. As fans,critics and his peers unanimously agreed, Kweli was cemented as one of hip hop's top lyricists and continued to release one acclaimed album after another - garnering direct praise from Jay-Z on his song "Moment of Clarity" from Jay-Z's classic The Black Album. Meanwhile as the early 2000's progressed, a new trio was bursting on the scene from North Carolina known as Little Brother. Behind the boards of this trio was producer 9th Wonder, who very quickly established himself as one of hip hop's best producers. As their 2003 album The Listening reached a fever pitch, 9th Wonder's buzz became so hot he claimed a highly coveted production spot as well on Jay-Z's The Black Album. Through the years both Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder have gone on to work with a staggering list of hip hop royalty. However both of their respective works outside of the recording booth have become prominent pieces of their stories as well. 9th Wonder has established himself as Hip Hop's top educator, working as a professor at Harvard, Duke and North Carolina Central University, while Talib Kweli has become one of Hip Hop's most vocal and respected voices, who appears regularly on news outlets such as CNN and programs like HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. A collaboration between Kweli and 9th almost seemed to make perfect sense, but INDIE 500 represents even more to the artists. "I've always been a fan of collectives, like Native Tongues and the Dungeon Family," explains Kweli. "INDIE 500 is a tribute to the spirit of unity exemplified by some of great hip hop artists that influenced us." Collectives are nothing new to the two, who have both successfully run their own labels in Blacksmith, Javotti (Kweli) and Jamla (9th Wonder), helping to break a number of popular artists over the years
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Top Customer Reviews
Both Talib and 9th decided to become independent artists by establishing a foundation for not only themselves, but their artists as well - enter the collaboration project "Indie 500". Though it's billed as an album by Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder, in reality, it's a compilation which features them as well as the acts singed to their labels and a few of their industry friends. On the opening track "Which Side Are You On", Talib alongside Tef Poe and singer Kendra Ross where they criticize celebrities who decide to ride the fence on particular issues - notably the recent string of police brutality cases. Talib duets with Rapsody on the Hi-Tek produced first single "Every Ghetto", while guesting with West Coast rappers Problem and Bad Lucc on "Pay Ya Dues". Brazilian rapper Niko Is appears on "Lo-Fi" as well as "These Waters" with female rapper K'Valentine and poet Jessica Care Moore and the songs "King S***" and "Technicolor Easels". Talib delivers a eulogy to deceased hip hop acts J Dilla, UGK member Pimp C and The X-ecutioners' Rob Swift "Great Day In The Mourning" with an out of place verse from Add-2. Talib performs alongside Pharoahe Monch and Atmoshpere frontman Slug on "Prego". Brother Ali and Planet Asia appear on the closing track, the 9th Wonder produced "Understand". Overall, "Indie 500" is a good recording from the collaboration between Jamla Records and Javotti Media. Despite the album not being marketed as a compilation, it's still worth checking out.
With solid bars of knowledge, power lyrics and a few rhymes to kill time, Indie 500 has almost everything from a vocal standpoint and even some more that can be taken or left. The album opens politically from a liberal perspective in "Which Side Are You On" about the racial divide in the US and discusses ghetto conditions and attitudes in the very next song "Every Ghetto." Because life goes on and to further support the LP's theme of enriching and motivating America's economically dispossessed Black class, "Don't Be Afraid" teaches fearlessness and "These Waters" provokes Indie 500's target audience to stay sane and strong.
Indie 500 is consistent with its excellent production, provided by the Soul Council producers and overseen by 9th Wonder. Combining principles of crate-digging, boom-bap and a commitment to soul, the music switches tempo and temp from warm to cool and back again without skipping a step or losing flair along the way. There are few surprises and the whole exercise of the project is without a fresh new purpose except to make another kicking hip-hop record, but the best moments occur when the most obscure guests give it one hundred percent or when these playful artists push each other to show us again why they're technically superb, near-flawless in fact. No one artist comes out on top of the others on Indie 500 so the true winners would have to be hip-hop and progressivism.