By Craig Seymour
Updated October 01, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Opening an album with talk of child labor, AIDS in Africa, and the Middle Passage isn’t the best way to get the party started. But Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli has more serious goals for his second solo set, The Beautiful Struggle, which affirms his reputation as hip-hop’s conscience. Sometimes the messages get as heavy as the sharp, thumping tracks, but a few jokes and guest spots from diva pals Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige help lighten the enlightenment.