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Cd Review: Cornel West

“Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations” (Hidden Beach Forum/BMWMB) Grade: A

Six years ago scholar, author and former Harvard professor Cornel West faced negative criticism from the press and the university’s then-president Lawrence Summers for dabbling in music by putting out his debut CD, “Sketches of Culture.”

But West, who now teaches at Princeton, hasn’t let those past obstacles dissuade him from moonlighting. On his third disc, “Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations” – which reassembles some tracks from 2004′s rambling CD, “Street Knowledge” – West enlists a star-studded list of collaborators that includes Prince, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert.

His Purple Highness contributes the disc’s best track, “Dear Mr. Man.” Over horn blasts and a walking funk groove, Prince sings: “Ain’t no sense in voting/ Same song with a different name/ Might not be in the back of bus/ but sure feels just the same.” Elsewhere, Talib Kweli’s metaphor-heavy “Bushanomics” is deft skewering of the president, while “What Time It Is” featuring Jill Scott is an evocative snapshot of urban survival.

And even though Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis Smiley and West jabber about racial slurs and 9/11 on the 12-minute track, “N-Word,” the disc manages to avoid coming across like a stilted course in civic responsibility. “Never Forget” is more like an awareness-raising reminder that message music still makes perfect sense.

Genre: R&B

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